Coping with son who has Asperger's

Though new research could pave the way for the development of drugs to treat autism, Madam Joyce Tan is wary of turning to drugs to improve her son's condition.

"I am concerned about the side effects of medicines. I would have to have a better understanding before making a decision," said the 53-year-old housewife.

Novel research helmed in Singapore could shed light on the underlying causes of autism, potentially leading to the development of drugs to manage the disorder.

Madam Tan's son Jonathan, 13, has Asperger's syndrome, a high- functioning form of autism.

Autism affects an individual's social interaction and perception of his surroundings. Those affected typically struggle, in varying degrees, with social interaction and communication and often exhibit repetitive behaviours.

HARD TO HANDLE

His emotions are quite hard to handle... Seeing him upset caused me to be upset, as I could not understand him.

MADAM JOYCE TAN, on her son, Jonathan, who has Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.

Jonathan was diagnosed at the age of 10, but he had shown signs of autism earlier.

"People would comment that he was hyperactive," Madam Tan recalled. "When he went to the hospital, he would always be touching the doctor's things."

Then, at nine years old, he became prone to angry outbursts. He was bullied at school and found it difficult to concentrate in class. His mother spoke to teachers and counsellors, but the situation got worse.

"His emotions are quite hard to handle," said Madam Tan. "Seeing him upset caused me to be upset, as I could not understand him."

She later sought help from a Ministry of Education psychologist, who diagnosed her son with Asperger's syndrome.

Madam Tan has since done all she can to help her child cope.

"I began reading up on the condition and trying to understand how he feels. I listen to him more and try my best to put myself in his shoes," she said.

She also began communicating regularly with Jonathan's teachers. They inform her of what has happened during the day, so that she can better calm her son down if he comes home angry, by explaining any upsetting or confusing social interaction to him.

Therapists at Pathlight School, where her son is studying, have also helped. "I wouldn't say the condition is gone, but (they have) helped him manage his emotions."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2016, with the headline 'Coping with son who has Asperger's'. Print Edition | Subscribe