A Mother’s Wish Holiday Programme December 2015

As the organiser and mother of one of the participants (Sebastien), I was severely tested during A Mother’s Wish (AMW) holiday programme December 2015 that turned out to be a heartbreaking challenge. By the end of the first week (with just five out of the 12 activities completed), the programme had already been battered by: the escalation of Sebastien’s increasingly compulsive tendency to remove stickers and labels and aggressive meltdowns on two days; outbursts of a majority of participants on another day; volunteers dropping out on a daily basis; and minor property damage (compensated by AMW upon request).

When I had Sebastien admitted to the psychiatric hospital in the face of his intimidation and threat of further aggression on the home front that very weekend, I was on the brink of canceling the holiday programme. In my emotionally distraught state, I put out an honest and apologetic announcement to the parents and volunteers. What transpired was true to the spirit of the community that I had always envisaged for AMW.

Instead of responding like irate customers, parents responded with understanding and empathy: if the programme had to be cancelled abruptly, they were fine with it. And then, Sou Kuin, a volunteer, together with Cheow Ping, my friend and photographer for the programme, stepped up to take over the coordination of the programme. Thanks to their help, the programme proceeded according to plan: I juggled between visiting Sebastien at the psychiatric ward and preparing the bag with the contents for the programme each day to pass to Sou Kuin and Cheow Ping. Over the next three uncertain days of Sebastien’s stay at IMH, parents and volunteers sent messages of support that helped to tide me over the darkest hours of my parenting journey. 

So I could honestly say that this was the worst and best AMW holiday programme ever! Thank you to everyone involved, including Selina who took over the second baking session!

In the face of Sebastien’s worsening behaviour over the course of AMW’s holiday programmes, I am forced to question my original vision of building a mobile community that offers affordable activities for individuals with autism involving public transport and diverse settings. My vision had also been premised upon the belief that if our autistic children were engaged in their lives with worthwhile activities, they would be less likely to resort to disruptive behaviors. Unfortunately, this has not been the case not only with Sebastien, but also with some other participants that have aggressive tendencies.

Therefore, the AMW holiday programme has not been able to offset the many challenges that families (including mine) continue to face with their children, even during the operation of the programme. Essentially, from my perspective, this programme has not been effective in helping the very families who are struggling the most with their children.

I am thus reshaping my approach towards creating AMW’s community in order to help families with challenging autistic children on a day-to-day basis. In order to focus on this endeavour, I will not be running a holiday programme in June. It is my hope that the revamped AMW will be able to provide a range of improved programmes and services when we return later this year.

1. Making Vegetable Print Wrapping Paper with Ms. Ivy Chew, 9277-7531
2. Embodied Movement with Ms. Elizabeth Rutten-Ng, 8637-0414
3. BodyTalk with Ms. Irene Khor, 9668-4596
4. Music with Ms. Germaine Yong, 8149-8234
5. Baking I with Ms. Ivy Chew
6. Making Creative Gift Tags with Ms. Ivy Chew
7. Cooperative Physical Activities with Camp Challenge, 6527-4427
8. Functional Training with Coach Sandy Snakenberg, 9061-8118
9. Drama and Movement with Mr. Michael Cheng, 9380-3041
10. Baking II with Ms. Selina Tan
11. Yoga and Massage with Ms. Shukla Cynthia Chua, 9060-0926
12. Autism Movement Therapy with Ms. Gracia Chua, 9023-6026

I would like to encourage parents or others to check out these service providers to organise individual or group sessions.