Julian Hung's son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of two and a half. His son has since had three years of applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapy and has made tremendous progress. Julian is writing this blog with the hope that other parents might benefit from his experience.
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As I wrote in my last blog post, making a difference for our son started with paying close attention to his early development, getting him checked out when we thought something was wrong and taking immediate action thereafter. After our son's diagnosis, we focused on maximizing his chances for improvement. Looking back, three decisions were especially critical:
a) To go with ABA therapy
b) To move back to Montreal
c) To work from my home
Going with ABA Therapy
After the diagnosis, we struggled to find out what caused autism and what treatments were available. We did a fair amount of research and talked to a number of people. Along the way, we heard about many approaches but ultimately, we felt most comfortable with applied behaviour analysis therapy.
Part of ABA's appeal was that it was scientific in approach, that it involved taking lots of data and that it had a strong track record over time. At the same time, ABA also seemed very common sense, practical and realistic. While we still did not know the causes of autism, we knew its behavioural symptoms and ABA addressed these directly by breaking them down and working on them individually. So we felt that while it might be a long road ahead with ABA, we would always at least be moving in the right direction with it.
Since our first week of ABA therapy at the Gold Centre supported the Miriam Foundation, my son has made tremendous progress. Today, three years later, he is adapting well in a regular kindergarten class learning side-by-side with his peers.
Moving back to Montreal
As our amazing experience with ABA therapy started in Montreal, we were all of a sudden faced with the possibility that we might need to move back here after many years in Singapore. While I did end up finding some ABA services in Singapore as well, we eventually decided to move back to Montreal, not only for the ABA services, but also the overall environment.
This was a major decision. I had lived in Singapore for 17 years, all my working life. My wife was from there. My kids were born there. We owned a condo there. My career and all my business contacts were there. All our friends were there. Our life was there. But we believed that if our son was to have the best chance to succeed, almost as important as the ABA was for him to have space, fresh air and a change of seasons and to be able to develop at his own pace in a place like Montreal.
Although the initial transition back was not easy, we eventually found our own place in a very family-friendly neighbourhood that provided a wonderfully supportive environment with parks, schools and libraries and a lovely sense of community and great neighbourhood kids. This has made a tremendous positive difference in our son's and indeed our family's life.
Working from Home
Having made decisions on therapy and the environment, I realized that it was also critical that I, as the father, spend more time with my son. Not only the extra time driving him back and forth to the centre for therapy every day but also more time each day with him at home to ensure that he got the most out of his therapy and environment. To do this effectively, it was clear that I would need a flexible schedule and that this would require me to work from my home.
While we continue to have a long way to go in my son's progress, with these major decisions, going with ABA therapy, moving back to Montreal and working from home, we felt and continue to feel that we have at least laid the foundation to maximize the chances of our son's success.