Living with autism

Living with autism

Ms Rachel Tan, 24, is like a third parent to her older brother Ryan, who is autistic. In fact, she admits to being his "discipline mistress" as Ryan, 26, tends to obey her more than their parents.

The human resource executive says: "Ryan knows my parents and maid spoil him, so he takes advantage of that. For example, if he dislikes something and throws it away, he will pick it up if I ask him to. But if the three of them make the same request, he will walk away."

Her mother Raleigh Tan, 53, says her daughter has always been mature beyond her years. Mrs Tan, an administrative assistant, is married to Mr Ronald Tan, 54, an army warrant officer.

The Tans, who live in a condominium in Pasir Ris, also have a younger son Reuben, 22, a national serviceman.

Both Rachel and Reuben were told from childhood they have to be responsible for their elder brother. Mrs Tan says: "We have always taught them that Ryan is different from their friends, so they need to take care of him and protect him in every way."

Diagnosed with severe autism when he was two years old, Ryan is unable to speak and communicates only through gestures.

According to Mrs Tan, "Ryan is totally dependent and needs someone to attend to him all the time. He has no self-help skills and cannot eat on his own".

She says: "We have gotten closer together as a family because of Ryan's condition. Otherwise, everyone would most likely be away most of the time because of his own busy schedule."

The family will be participating in this month's FairPrice Walks With U, a walking event organised by NTUC FairPrice for the second consecutive year.

Rachel adds fondly: "Ryan's like the sun and all of us are the planets around it. Whatever we do or whatever it is, we will always think about him and his needs."

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