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A Father’s Story: ‘For My Son’

date_range2024-06-16

Behind every child is a world of parental concern. Let’s delve into the touching paternal journey of K.V’s Dad – whose child is a beneficiary of saigonchildren’s Special Needs Education Programme – during the early phases of development for a child with autism.

Before you were born, our family wasn’t financially stable either. I worked as a house painter, your Mum did office housekeeping. Sometimes on weekends, we worked together at construction sites, where Mum did extra jobs as a cleaner while I was in charge of painting the buildings, earning a little extra to buy milk for your sister.

As soon as we learnt you would join our family, Mum and Dad couldn’t hide our excitement, especially after a few months, I knew you would be a boy. Since the hospital fees in Saigon were unbearable for us, Mum managed to return to her hometown to give birth, while I stayed in the city to continue working and make ends meet. The day you came into the world, all my hopes and wishes for you were swirling in my head. I told myself I would do my best to raise you strong and brave.

Having experience raising your sister, I felt reassured that you would reach the typical developmental milestones, from rolling over and crawling, to saying basic words like “mama,” “baba,” “dog,” “cat,” and so on. However, by the time you were almost 2, we noticed some differences in your development. You started tiptoeing, running around constantly, babbling less, and couldn’t sit still for long periods. You also wouldn’t turn around when someone called your name, didn’t recognise familiar people, and even crossed streets without any awareness of traffic once I stopped holding your hand.

On the advice of neighbours, we took you for a clinical evaluation and were informed that you were diagnosed with autism and ADHD. They also prescribed medication since you had trouble sleeping, often staying awake until 3 or 4 am. At that time, the COVID pandemic was still widespread. Dad stayed at home and began researching videos and documentaries with Mum about parenting a child with autism, but this wasn’t very helpful. It saddened me a bit that you still preferred to play alone and would start screaming and throwing your favourite toys if something upset you.

When the lockdown lifted, we enrolled you in expensive 1-on-1 intervention sessions for 4 months, followed by an inclusive-education kindergarten. There, you struggled with things like friends’ shoes not being symmetrical or in perfect order (It took a significant amount of time for us and your teacher to understand why you were afraid of going to class).

In 2022, through a former teacher’s recommendation, we registered you for the saigonchildren’s free early intervention programme. You quickly adapted to the new intervention therapy. In addition to the 1-on-1 sessions with the teachers and Mom or Dad, we also used our time at home to practise improving your skills every day. After a few months, you were qualified to learn in a group setting that lasted for 2 hours per session, one session each week, with 5-7 peers like you. Since then, you’ve enjoyed it very much and have acquired important foundational skills.

Just over a year since you started intervention with specialists and practising at home, you progressed from a language delay at 24 months to reaching the 4.5-year milestone. When we received the reassessment report from the intervention specialists, we were incredibly proud that your developmental index improved significantly. Now, you attend grade 1 in public school and can read, write, and have short conversations with others.

On this path of intervention for you, tears have fallen from us parents – tears of sadness, frustration when you didn’t cooperate, and then tears of joy as we witnessed your progress. Dad would like to thank the intervention teachers, thank you, thank your mum, and even thank myself for not giving up, not losing hope, but always accompanying you on this journey.

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