Mother of two autistic kids says 'take care of yourself first'
His family has never heard him speak a coherent sentence.
This is because Amir Rosman, 16, has Asperger Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. His brother, Raihan, 24, has the same disorder.
They are being cared for by their parents and 22-year-old sister, a student care teacher.
Their father, Mr Rosman Rostam, 51, who works 12-hour night shifts as a supervisor in the cargo freight department at Changi Airport, said it can get tiring caring for the brothers as they require extra attention.
"But we just have to accept them as they are. There are many others who are worse off and we should count our blessings," he said.
The brothers have mild to moderate autism and are unable to read and write. While Mr Raihan can communicate verbally, Amir communicates by blabbering or gesturing.
Their mother, Madam Satirah Jaffar, 48, is a janitor at the airport.
She said: "My greatest worry is that they will need to rely on others in future.
"They are not articulate and intellectually challenged. I am afraid people might take advantage of their condition."
Despite the stress of taking care of the brothers, the close-knit family remains optimistic and enjoys spending time together, eating with their extended family and watching movies at home.
Madam Satirah said: "Taking care of our sons taught us about responsibility, patience and courage.
"We must remain hopeful. Right now, they are not capable, but who knows, in the future they might be the ones taking care of us."
Mr Raihan attends school at the Association For Persons with Special Needs and Amir studies at Towner Gardens School.
A typical day would see the boys' sister wake them in the early morning and prepare them for school. When they return home in the afternoon, they are looked after by their parents.
Mr Rosman, who chose to work the night shift so that he can spend more time with his sons, said: "There are no tangible rewards in taking care of them, but seeing them smile is all we need to carry on."
The boys' parents work closely with school counsellors, who update them on their sons' progress in school.
Amir's school also provides additional resources, such as loaning tablets installed with educational applications to their students.
The couple advise caregivers of special needs children to actively seek help.
Madam Satirah said: "There are many avenues for help such as schools and government agencies.
"Also, take care of yourself first because you can't give anything if you are tired or unwell. It would be like pouring from an empty cup."
Doctors say: Stressed caregivers can get help
Caring for special needs children takes a toll on the caregiver physically, emotionally and financially.
Dr Brian Yeo, consultant psychiatrist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, said: "Autistic children often have learning and socialisation difficulties, which will require additional time and resources to take care of them."
He added that there are not many facilities in Singapore that take care of special needs children for the whole day. And caregivers who are stressed emotionally can easily sink into depression.
Signs of depression include poor sleep, loss of appetite and constantly cooping up at home, said Dr Yeo.
Clinical psychologist Carol Balhetchet, senior director of youth services at Singapore Children's Society, said: "Primary caregivers have to take care of the child's every single need and this puts a 24/7 toll on them.
"Caregivers need to have time for themselves. It will be good for them to receive external help, whether it be from extended family or even a kind neighbour."
She advises caregivers who are unable to cope to seek help.
Dr Balhetchet said: "Many of them feel embarrassed to ask for help as they feel that it is their responsibility to take care of their children.
"But so long as they reach out, there will be people, such as family service centres and special needs organisations, that will provide expert advice on how to take care of themselves."
- KRYSTAL CHIA
Primary caregivers have to take care of the child's every single need and this puts a 24/7 toll on them.
- Clinical psychologist Carol Balhetchet, senior director of youth services at Singapore Children's Society
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS)
Singapore Association for Mental Health
Touch Counselling & Social Support
Care Corner Mandarin Counselling Centre
Mental Health Helpline
6389-2222 (24 hours)