“Two of my sons have autism”

Selina Gomez quit her job to become the caretaker of her young son, Ivan, when he was diagnosed with autism. Today, Ivan is 16. “Autism is what our son has, not who our son is,” says Gomez.


“My 16-year-old son, Ivan, is artistic and athletic. He’s fun and loving, and is passionate about art, animals and food. He brings joy to everyone he meets, and sets goals to accomplish. He’s compassionate and always there to give you a hug when you are down.

Ivan also has autism.

When he was a baby, he was rather quiet, but nothing stood out. Around the time he turned 2, we found him to be rather too quiet. He would sit in front of the TV watching Barney, and not respond to us when we came home from work. He would not seem to notice, even when we had visitors. He would seem to be in a daze most of the time, not wanting to communicate with anyone.

The lack of eye contact was our first sign that Ivan may have had autism — then came the lack of speech. Ivan only started speaking at the age of 5 and he still has difficult expressing himself verbally, or relating events that upset him.

Ivan has sensory issues and it was extremely challenging when he was younger. I had to evaluate every situation before bringing him into it — whether it was going to the grocery store, to church, to a party, or to the playground, we were kept on our toes. Every minute was a challenge and I was like a 24/7 surveillance centre.

Every minute was a challenge and I was like a 24/7 surveillance centre.”

He went through many phases during his childhood. Sometimes, sleep wasn’t on his agenda. He would go on for weeks, without having a proper amount of sleep at night. Those nights really drained me as my husband worked overseas and I was alone. Should I doze off in the afternoons as he played, I would occasionally wake to find him playing with items that could have been dangerous if misused. I still wonder how I survived those days.

We used to take the train from Clementi to Sembawang for his Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) twice a week. He knows the sequence of the train stations by heart. Once, his dad took him the KFC at Woodlands, after that, every time we passed Woodlands, we had to alight to get chicken nuggets for him — he would cry and throw a fit if we did not.