“Be patient. Be very patient. They will shine.”

Just like many other 11-year-old boys, Dong Lin loves to watch YouTube videos and play video games. The moment he is plugged into his immersive gaming world, Dong Lin would speak in fluent English, while tapping on his screen with enthusiasm and glee.

“He’s very good at speaking English! Sometimes, he speaks so well that I have to google the meaning of the word to understand what he’s trying to tell me,” his mother remarked. But it was a different story in the past.

Worried that Dong Lin was not talking when other children of his age were, his parents brought him to see a specialist. That was when Dong Lin was diagnosed with autism. In their attempt to encourage him to talk, his parents enrolled him into playgroup class, hoping the company of other same-age peers would spur him into talking but that did not go well. After a couple of lessons, the teachers implored his parents to take him home as he was often crying and it affected other kids in the class. The constant assault of setbacks certainly had a distressing effect on the parents. They were confused as they knew very little about the condition, but they also berated themselves endlessly.

After speaking to different educators and counsellors, the fog that clouded their understanding began to clear. Dong Lin’s parents learnt that having a child with autism is like having a child who interacts and expresses in a seemingly different world from theirs. Instead of trying to fit him into their world, Dong Lin’s parents laboured to join his world. They enrolled him in a tailored programme to have the space and support to develop his skills and cope with the challenges. He enrolled in MINDS Fernvale Gardens School at the age of seven years old, where he received further specialised education.

Their years of labour and devotion bore fruit, for Dong Lin has not only learnt to speak well, but he has also learnt to play with his friends at school. He would often engage his younger sibling, where they spend time playing their favourite games together.

Treading into uncharted waters can be daunting for anyone, let alone parents who feel responsible for their child’s future. Seeing how Dong Lin has grown and learnt so much at school, his parents felt more assured and confident that Dong Lin would grow to be an independent and contributing individual in society.