"My son was pinned down by 5 adults"

Lawrence Ng recounts the emotional rollercoaster of parenting Kai, his autistic son.

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“By the young age of 3½, my son, Kai was diagnosed to have high functioning autism. We were living in Beijing at that time and Kai (now 12), who went to the school where I was working as a human resource practitioner, started struggling to make sense of what school is. Eventually, the counsellor advised us to send him for a diagnosis and that was how we learn he was autistic.

“We had no idea about autism or ‘special needs’ until then. It was like we were thrown into this whole new world where we had to quickly make sense of what everything meant.

“It was very traumatic and stressful process for our family. My wife, Jen and I had a lot of differences on how to manage Kai. It got to a point where we were considering a divorce because we were just not agreeing.

“Eventually we quit everything in Beijing and went to Australia for four years. I took up psychology and counselling and worked with special-needs individuals who were recovering from clinical depression. That helped me as that was when I first began home-schooling my son. We returned to Singapore in October 2014 and Kai has since been conditionally admitted to Pathlight School.

“Kai would share a lot of jokes with schoolmates because he thought they are laughing with him but they are actually laughing AT him.”

Kai’s struggles in school

“We tried placing Kai in a mainstream school in Australia, but it turned out to be too stressful. The school would often call me to pick him up because he had a meltdown — a violent tantrum, hitting and punching anyone or anything — becoming very, very aggressive. I rushed to the school and find him being pinned down by five adults on the carpet floor. Each adult was holding one limb, another holding down his head and body because he was too agitated — he was only about 5!

“In school, Kai would share a lot of jokes with schoolmates because he thought they were laughing with him but they were actually laughing AT him. His schoolmates would tell him to go do silly things like lifting up the skirt of a female classmate or go and punch another person and he will do it, because he values their friendship! Then he would get punished; suspended for three days, then five days, and then he was thrown out of school, given his history of bad behaviour.

“We did employ shadow teachers, but that didn’t work because it was expensive and the teacher got clawed and bitten very badly! I eventually took over but had to remain hidden in the school library until they notified me to come and take him home. In the end, I could not show up at all except when the school called me.

“I used to spend the whole day, sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring. When it did, it was like having a heart attack. And even if it didn’t ring, I would keep frantically checking to see if the battery was charged or if data was switched on... Eventually, it affected our mental and emotional wellbeing as a family.

Read on to find out how ignorant onlookers criticised Ng's parenting