Arissa binti Muhamad Syukri, 6-years-old
“The first step is to accept.”



I started noticing some signs that Arissa was different when she was a toddler. She had difficulty communicating, she threw tantrums, and when I saw the way other children behaved, I realised that she wasn’t exactly like them. I had taken her to see a doctor who suspected that she had speech delay and advised me to take her to speech therapy with a specialist from another hospital. But as a single working mother, it was difficult to take her to speech therapy during work hours and it wasn’t easy to find nannies who could help.

So one day, I had to bring her to the office with me. It wasn’t until the next day at the office, that my colleague who has a son with severe autism approached me and said that she observed Arissa and suspects that she too was showing some common traits of autism. Her observation worried me and without wasting more time, I set the first appointment for her speech therapy with the specialist the previous doctor had recommended. It only took one therapy session for the doctor to observe Arissa. He noticed her behaviour, playing with the water in the sink, not responding when you call her and her lack of attention, and he suspected that she had more than speech delay issues.



Arissa was then referred to an autism specialist who observed her hyperactivity, her difficulty in focusing and so on. This is when she was diagnosed with mild-autism. The specialist advised me to bring her for two occupational therapy sessions and one speech therapy session per week.

Three sessions a week is really a loaded commitment, especially during working hours and on top of that, I was also in the middle of obtaining my Masters education. At the time, I put everything I had into it. All my savings were practically gone and I even had to start thinking of other ways to make extra income to cover the costs. But I knew therapy is crucial if I wanted to see my daughter grow up to be a happy woman, so we stuck to it.


It’s been a year of consistency, and now, she has improved so much. She can speak a bit more – small things like telling me she wants milk. She still has her moments and, like most kids with autism, she is very rigid with her routine. So, when slight changes happen in her schedule, she reacts aggressively.

I have to admit that there are so many moments throughout a typical day that drains my energy physically, mentally and emotionally. It is challenging. But I consider myself lucky because I have a strong support system of wonderful friends, good bosses and colleagues who understand Arissa and my situation.



I am also lucky that I got Arissa’s autism detected early as well, because the doctor says that before the age of seven is a crucial time for development. Like all parents, it took me a little while to accept that my daughter was different, but eventually I did.

So, my advice for parents out there who may be going through a similar situation is to heed the signs and not dismiss them. Early detection doesn’t completely cure ASD but your kid can learn how to adapt to everyday situations and interactions. The first step is to accept that your child has autism and then, find out the best possible treatment to support him/her.

Being Arissa’s mom has taught me so many things but of them all, the lessons that have made their way into my life permanently are acceptance of whatever situation I may be in, and how the right course of action will only lead me to providing the best for my child and I.



To find out more about the rehabilitation team in Arissa’s story, visit

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