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Words from the Heart: A Letter to the Most Loving Parents in the Whole Wide World

Foreword: There’s this saying in the Autism community: When you meet an autistic person, you’ve met exactly one autistic person. It’s meant to reflect the fact that every autistic individual has different struggles, needs, and ways of handling stress and meltdowns.

Our special guest, Mitchell, age 27, shares with us his experiences living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The narrative below is an adaptation of Mitchell's experiences, offering a window into the challenges and triumphs he encounters daily, as we strive to cultivate empathy and awareness of autism, a neurological and developmental disorder that many might have misunderstandings of. It's our hope that by sharing Mitchell’s perspective, we can shed light on the reality of living with autism—the struggles, the successes, and the profound capacity for growth. 

Please remember me as more than just a boy with autism. I am an artist, a son, a brother, a photographer. I am easygoing, open to friendships, and passionate about many things. I am so much more than my diagnosis.


Dear Ma and Pa,

How are things at home? Has Pa been eating enough vegetables? What about you Ma, have you been taking your vitamin Cs? The other day I went to my favourite childhood playground— the one that you both used to bring me to play at after school. When I was there, I saw a young child bent over crying, and his parents at his side comforting him, hugging him. They reminded me of the both of you.

Do you remember when you first realised that I was different from most other kids? Even though I was only 5 or 6 at the time, I could sense that something was troubling you both: Your phones rang often, and I knew from your expressions that it was almost never good news. Soon I realised that those daily calls were from my school teacher, informing you about my actions in school which had hurt others, even though I wasn’t able to control them and didn’t mean to hurt anyone.

Although you always treated me like any other kid, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was different from other people my age. Not in a special way, but in a problematic way. I hurt people unintentionally, I made other kids avoid me, and understanding others never came as easily to me as it seemed to for everyone else. I felt so frustrated with myself. But thankfully, it all came together when I learnt that I had Autism. Even though my doubts still hung overcast like storm clouds, and my struggle to control my actions continued, I could now begin to understand what made me different.

Throughout my childhood, the both of you showed me boundless love and patience as you tried to teach me how to control myself from hitting others, adding pictures in your explanations for why I shouldn’t do what I do. I remember those visual aids that you printed out and pasted on the walls. Because of them, I was better able to understand the world around me, understand the consequences of my actions and learn how to interact with others properly. I recognised that everybody made friends differently, and realised that people who approached me didn’t always mean harm and many just wanted to be my friend. 

Kids like me sometimes need a lot more time to understand things that may come easy for others. I really appreciate that you both saw and understood my needs, simplifying things for me with these pictures and patiently repeating yourselves until I got it. It was frustrating to learn how to hold myself back, and having to maintain a grip on myself at all times was really, really hard. It honestly felt like a big project that took up a lot of my energy. Of course, I still had moments of annoyance and frustration, especially when people were intrusive and prodded for my personal information. I used to get so angry just thinking about these people. In those moments, I remembered what you told me. If I can’t be nice, just ignore them. Your advice helped me better control my feelings and not let intrusive people bother me. Because of this, I was able to make many more friends later on who I still talk to every day.

Amidst my struggles with socialising, I recall how learning in school also posed a big challenge for me, and how the both of you were there for me, guiding me throughout. Studying was very difficult for me. I somehow couldn’t grasp concepts the way I wanted to or the way teachers seemed to want me to. Even though I remember the times where you would get frustrated at me for not being able to solve a simple maths question, I also remember the hours you spent working with me, patiently explaining concepts. I used to want to give up a lot. But kids like me, we really do want to learn new things. It just is a lot harder for us since we aren’t capable of studying the same way as others. I’m grateful that the both of you never gave up on me and developed ways to teach me. Over time, I could finally understand my maths and science concepts. Your support helped me to pass my ‘N’ levels when I once thought it impossible and with the help of my special needs officer at school and my friends, I even got to graduate from ITE. Thank you for going above and beyond to support me through this process, I wouldn’t have known how to do this without you.

I particularly remember 2020's National Day. I love the Red Lions and look forward to seeing them every year, but that day, the weather leading up to their jump was getting bad and I couldn’t help but worry for the Red Lions and their safety. The discomfort was so unbearable — it felt like my skin was on fire and there were ants crawling all over my throat. Now reflecting on that day, I’m sure it must have been difficult for you two to watch me scream and cry in the middle of the stands, surrounded by surprised people. Amidst my meltdown, I vividly remember you holding my hands and clasping them together while uttering “Dear Father in Heaven”. You showed me how to pray. I felt a wave of peace and comfort far beyond my understanding, and to this day, I often pray to comfort myself when I’m feeling uneasy and uncomfortable. 

Even now as an adult, your love for me hasn’t changed. Both of you are always there for me at my lowest, and cheering me on at my highest. As I step out into the world to face my day-to-day endeavours, I am constantly reminded of your faith in my passion for photography and the arts. Thank you for recognising my talents and helping me share them with the world. 

Seeing how much you believed in my potential was encouraged me immensely and it was nice to feel like I was good at something. With your support, I have been able to grow my skills in photography and I am even able to envision making a career out of it in the future.

Even though the journey in raising me must have been difficult, that never stopped you from creating a loving environment for me, and you never once lost hope in me. I thank God for giving me the most loving parents who accept me for who I am and see me for more than my diagnosis. Thank you for everything that you have done for me, and for helping me live a fulfilling and happy life. I’m so happy to be your son. I love both of you so much.

With all my love,

Your Beloved Child

This written letter is heavily inspired by Mitchell’s story as well as the stories of other individuals with autism. In sharing their experiences, we hope that parents feel recognised in raising a child with autism. 

The journey may not have been easy, but your unwavering love means the world to them.

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