Stressed over autistic child, couple attend parenting support course

SINGAPORE - They used to quarrel about how to handle their four-year-old autistic son.

Housewife Margaret Shaikh, 36, would teach her son using one approach during the day, but when her husband returned from work, he would try a different method.

She got frustrated over their differences in opinion.

Mr Akhtar Shaikh, 40, a client services manager, said: "Coming home from work, I didn't understand what had gone on during the day. "And I would give short-term solutions, (ruining) her efforts."

The couple, who also has another son, six, attended a five-week parenting support course called Signposts for Building Better Behaviour.

Led by KK Women's and Children's Hospital's Department of Child Development (KKH DCD), the course reaches out to parents and caregivers of children with developmental needs.

Associate Professor Lim Sok Bee, head and senior consultant at KKH DCD, said the hospital sees over 2,300 children diagnosed with developmental difficulties each year.

Stress

He said: "The parental stress experienced can adversely affect not only the parents, but also their children.

"Our primary intent... is to equip parents with skills to manage their child's difficult behaviours before any of them escalate to a level that may require intervention by specialists."

Mrs Shaikh said the course has helped her to better care for Manoah, who was diagnosed with autism last year, and she is now able to take him out regularly.

She recalled how tough it was in the past.

Supermarket trip turns ugly

For example, one trip to the supermarket turned ugly after he filled the trolley with one fruit of every kind.

"There was a lot of yelling and crying and we didn't know how to manage him. It was embarrassing," she said.

It got so bad that they changed their grocery shopping schedule so they could avoid taking him along with them.

They also had different views about their son - she "had a hunch that he was special", while her husband would dismiss his hyperactive behaviour as that typical of boys.

Tantrums

Mrs Shaikh said: "We would fight a lot, especially when he threw tantrums in public."

The couple are thankful things are better now.

Mrs Shaikh said: "Manoah is more cooperative and his tantrums have been greatly reduced, because we realised the need to acknowledge his feelings and how to communicate with him."

Mr Shaikh agreed: "We know now how to target the problem and that helps with the stress levels."

Mrs Shaikh said the programme has also done wonders for her relationship with her husband.

"Signpost has brought us closer... and it made me realise that we need to work together to give Manoah the best."


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