Today, as we commemorate World Autism Awareness Day 2022, let’s take some time to acknowledge and celebrate the strengths of persons on the spectrum. We are heartened to have Jannah share with us her journey as a caregiver, as well as a sister to Sarah, who is on the spectrum.
“One of my lowest points was when Sarah (image below), my sister, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We were very worried for her and did not know how to respond or react to her behaviours. All these were very new to us, and we were despondent. We had to do a lot of research and reading to understand how to better care for Sarah. I’m also very thankful to AWWA because the teachers gave a lot of advice on how to handle the various scenarios, for example, meltdowns.
If I were to look at ASD scientifically, it is defined as a disorder – as the name suggests. However, as we grew and learned alongside Sarah, we realised that there was more to that than just a “disorder”. They are like you and me. They have their strengths and weaknesses. My sister is a very talented artist; I can’t even draw as well as her! They just need society’s help to allow them to learn and grow, that’s all.
There are innumerable sweet memories I shared with Sarah. One that is etched in my mind took place on her 15th birthday. During the celebration, she laughed, swayed to the music gleefully, and asked for presents from time to time. I caught a glimpse of her innocent smile as she cut her birthday cake. At that moment, all I felt was bliss. I will never forget that day!
There are ups and downs. I won’t discredit any of them because, through these experiences, I became more resilient, and my family became more united: all these because of Sarah, our superstar” – Jannah (left), sister of Sarah.