A letter to the 18-year-old Junle
How are you, Lele? Have you improved in your learning over the years? Did you manage to befriend some people whom you can have a casual conversation with? I’m not sure if you will be able to understand this letter now as you are only eight years old when I penned this letter.
It is still very hard for you to communicate with others today. Besides the few commonly used sentences that you use, Mummy and I often had to guess what you are trying to tell us through your moods and moves. At times, we have to try and catch the words amongst the tunes and words that you randomly say and sing to interpret your feelings and decipher what you are trying to tell us.
Are you able to control your emotions better now? I know that your temper flares are often beyond your control. It could be because the surroundings are too noisy, the weather is too hot and there’s a myriad of factors that may trigger your senses and makes things unbearable for you, which explains why you become agitated and frustrated. However, in this society that we are living in, we need to learn how to adapt to these factors, how to face and handle different environments and scenarios.
Many people still do not understand what autism is about and some people may not have come across any autistic people in their surroundings, thus they are unable to comprehend why an ordinary child like you, who looks no different from other children, would suddenly throw tantrums in public and have a meltdown.
To be honest, before you were first diagnosed with autism, Papa had absolutely no clue what autism is all about. I can still recall the times when you were three years old when the doctor told Papa and Mama that you were an autistic child.
Mama’s eyes turned red and tears welled up. At first, I did not think much of it and thought that autism can be treated with medication. As I researched and read more into the field of autism, I became more and more aware of what autism is and the learning challenges it brings.
The more I read, the heavier my heart sank.
Sometimes, I wonder if I have unknowingly visited a temple and prayed to the god to wish that you will remain in the adorable phase when you were two to three year old and not grow up at all. It seems like the god has answered my prayers.
Till today, you still cannot express what you want in a complete sentence. When you’re hungry, you will wail like a little baby and when you are full, you will be all smiles. Everyday, you live in the carefree world of yours, completely ignorant about the pressures of exams and homework. Once, I brought you to the mall and saw many parents standing outside the tuition centres, awaiting their children to finish their classes. One of the little boys came out from a tuition centre, quickened his pace when he saw his father, held his hand and excitedly shared the interesting things that happened in class. At that instant, I felt very envious, yet a pang of jealousy struck me. I’m jealous that the father has a child who can interact with him. The father’s comforting big hands holding the little hands of his son, happily chit-chatting away. This may seem like a simple everyday affair for the father and son, but to me, it seems so distant and far beyond reach.
I can only hold back by tears and take a nonchalant approach to the scene I’ve just witnessed.
Junle, do you understand why Papa is upset? Do you know that Papa and Mama have always hope that there will come a day when we can just have a casual conversation with you? Have you encountered any interesting things at school? Did you share your bento set with your classmates? During your one-hour bus journey, did you notice the birds that were soaring in the skies? When the school holidays, do you look forward to going to grandma’s house in Malaysia and playing with your cousins there?
When will Papa be able to have a simple conversation with you? Even if it’s just one or two sentences?
I really hope that this day will come soon as I’m all ready to make you my best friend. I believe that I will be your best playmate as Papa myself is a kid at heart too. But first, you need to be able to communicate and interact with me, before we can open our hearts and talk. Do you understand?
I’ve always believed that happiness is a choice. Rather than dwelling in our own sorrows, Mama and I have decided to arm ourselves with a positive attitude so that we can help you to overcome your learning disabilities.
At times, we may feel helpless and dejected when we encountered your emotional meltdowns but we constantly remind ourselves that we need to take a proactive and positive outlook in life. This will allow us to build our “ammunition” and strengthen ourselves to face the challenges ahead with you. However, Papa and Mama are not saints and we do have our fair share of ups and downs and sometimes, we do feel deflated.
Regardless, Papa promise you that no matter what happens, I will still stand by you to work hard together, to help you to overcome all the odds and challenges. As for you, you should not idle too, you need to continue to work hard and learn to be independent.
Loving you always,