T.L. is one of the parents who participated in saigonchildren’s free course on developing play skills for parents of children with autism in October and November 2020. Read on to learn about her journey of raising a child with autism spectrum disorder, and why learning to play with her son is important to her.
My introduction to saigonchildren was a fortuity, almost ‘fated’, when a year ago I stumbled upon a post – in a group for parents with children with special needs – about saigonchildren’s free training courses for parents with children with developmental delays. I noticed that there were a large number of parents who registered so I signed both my husband and me up for the course. Luckily, both my husband and I were accepted; thus, we decided that my husband would take the course and I would give my spot to a friend. The end of the course was also the start of my husband’s better understanding and empathy for my hard work, being the one to personally care for our son. He is also more understanding of the difficulties and limitations our son faces. He no longer asks idle questions but contemplates and answers the questions for himself. My friend, who had taken my slot, also had a positive experience. She is now a member of an association for parents with children with developmental delays, sponsored by saigonchildren. I’m happy for her, for all the hardships and confusion that comes with being a single mom with a child with developmental difficulties had been lifted and guided. When I met my friend and her child recently, the child showed major progress, displaying skills that would allow him/her to start inclusive school soon.
After that, I discovered saigonchildren’s course on playing skills. It was like I had struck gold. How to play to develop awareness, play to increase interaction, play to foster connections between parents and child, were all the questions I was struggling with. ‘Play’ should be so simple, but how come there are so many difficulties when I play a game with my child? After the course, I finally had the answers as to why my son approaches play in such ‘different’ ways. Instead of sitting in confusion like before, questioning “why does my child play with one toy in the exact same way for days on end? Why does he spin and spin anything he get his hands on?”, after the course I now understand and can engage better in play with him. If he wants to spin, I let him spin – but instead of spinning something random and meaningless, I’ll suggest a spinning game that is also educational and develops skills. For example, the lucky wheel. Whichever item the wheel stops on, he would then need to take that item and give it to dad. This way, I can allow my son to spin to his heart’s content, whilst also developing his awareness of items, and engagement when playing with his parents. Finally, I came to the conclusion that his playing is repetitive because he does not yet know how to develop his playing; our responsibility as parents is to help our child discover the open-ended possibilities of play, to teach them new ways. Once we change our perspective, what was once considered ‘limited behaviour’ now seems much more lively and dynamic.
Because of this new approach to play, every day my child further develops skills such as how to wait to play in turn, or how to interact with friends. Recently, when he was playing, his friends suddenly became intrigued. So, each of them imitated the way my son was playing. Four kids surrounded my child to play in a way most would regard as ‘different’. What surprised me the most, was that my child was willing to wait for his friends to take their turns in the game. He has changed from a child who hated human contact, to letting his friends hold his hand for five minutes, and hug him for photographs. Honestly, if I hadn’t taken saigonchildren’s course on playing skills, I never would have been able to decode and help develop the way my child plays to this extent.
I know we still have a long journey ahead. I still have times when I feel helpless for not being able to understand my child, for when we both don’t share the same thoughts. My child’s playing is still limited, making it difficult for him to catch up with his peers in all the different ways they can play. To be able to play for five minutes with his friends is already a big improvement. But there are also behaviours caused by sensory disturbances and emotional disturbances. When it comes to learning more about this area, no knowledge is ever enough. I hope that saigonchildren can organise more courses for parents with children with developmental delays so I can open up the doors into my child’s world, to better understand him – and maybe one day I can take him through that door and into a new world. But for now, I will continue to always put in my best efforts, until that day comes.
Giving Tet gifts to children with autism from disadvantaged families:
This Lunar New Year, join hands with us to prepare Tet gifts for children in saigonchildren’s free early intervention project.
To a child with an autism spectrum disorder, every time they learn a new word, a new behaviour, or correctly read social cue, is an achievement worth celebrating. Twenty-three kids currently from impoverished families in our early intervention project are 23 different stories of effort, cooperation, and overcoming social prejudices.
Lunar New Year, or Tet in Vietnamese, is the most important holiday of the year for most Vietnamese people. This Tet (12 Feb 2021) season, saigonchildren needs your joining hands with us to give 23 sets of gifts to these amazing children. Each set contains a list of toys and equipment, personalised to the needs and goals of each child by our specialists. These toys and equipment may not be hard to come by for kids in a normal family, but for these children, who all come from poverty, they can help them make the small steps towards their goal. Because for children with developmental delay, every small step is a cause for celebration.