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Parents Are The Best Advocates – By CAREbuddy Debanjana Bhaumik

Parents Are The Best Advocates – By CAREbuddy Debanjana Bhaumik

This article was contributed by CAREbuddy Debanjana Bhaumik.

Featured photo: Debanjana, her husband, Som, and their 7-year-old girl, Sahana.


Both Som and I were working in Oil & Gas sector in Singapore when we relocated to Houston, Texas, USA in 2013. Sahana was born there in 2015. Sahana was diagnosed with autism in 2018 at Texas Children’s Autism Center. Our family moved back to Singapore in 2020. 


The early years as special needs caregivers

We had noticed that Sahana was not talking at the age of 2 years old. We brought up our concerns to her pediatrician in Houston. He advised us to wait and watch for 6 months (as kids in bilingual families may delay in picking up speech). Eventually he sent us for evaluation. We had already started speech therapy (ST) and occupational therapy (OT) while waiting for evaluation (12 months wait time). 

Finally, after the evaluation in 2018, Sahana was diagnosed with autism. She was prescribed full time ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy. We were shocked and saddened by the diagnosis.

In order to double confirm the diagnosis, we also got her evaluated at NUH Child Development Unit (CDU) in 2018 but unfortunately the results were the same. Our pediatrician at NUH CDU suggested to us to stay back in Houston and get the ABA therapy done. Once completed, we could plan to come back to Singapore and enroll Sahana in Pathlight school. 

Hence started Sahana’s journey with ABA therapy in 2019. It was not an easy one, especially considering the cost, resources, time, work/life balance factors for both Som and me. I am very grateful to my parents for their continual support during these difficult times as they made multiple trips all the way to Houston in order to help out with Sahana. It was a huge learning curve for us. Within 3 months we saw awesome improvements in Sahana. On completion of her ABA therapy, we planned our move back to Singapore in 2020. Again, it was not an easy decision for us. Both of us quit our jobs and moved back to Singapore at the start of the pandemic. 


Joining a parent support group

Just as we returned back to Singapore in 2020, the Covid-19 wave hit leading to lockdown. There were delays in getting a preschool and EIPIC services for Sahana. At this time, I was looking for parent support groups for special needs (SN) children. I came to know about CaringSG from Edward Chan in the CASPER support group. I also came to know about various parent to parent support groups on Facebook, WhatsApp etc. These groups provided a wealth of information that we needed at that time. 

Photo: Debanjana, Som, and Sahana celebrating Sahana’s 7th birthday.


Once Sahana got admission to Pathlight school, I thought it would be good to share our experience with other parents going through the same journey. When I came to know about CaringSG’s CAREbuddy program, I thought it would be an ideal avenue to give back to community. 

After joining and completing the CAREbuddy training, I came to know about a lot of local resources which will be helpful to parents of SN kids while waiting for intervention and or school services. It was a very in-depth training covering a wide range of topics to help you listen with empathy and to empower your caregivers to make the best decision for their family. 

Working as a CAREbuddy intern has been pretty exciting. I am so glad to be able to share Sahana’s journey with other parents. Hope they find something useful from it. At the same time, I have learnt a lot from my caregivers. 

I would definitely urge the caregivers of SN kids to join this CAREbuddy program if they can spare the time. Making new connections and putting yourself out there can be a little daunting in the beginning, but with time, it will be fulfilling journey. 


Encouraging fellow special needs caregivers

I am a strong advocate of early intervention. I have seen it in case of my own child how early ABA therapy became the turning point in her intervention journey.

I understand that getting the evaluation report/ diagnosis of special needs can be very heartbreaking for the parents. The societal stigma associated with special needs also makes it quite scary. I will encourage the parents to look beyond this and concentrate on finding intervention for your kids.

Don’t be shy to ask for help from family, friends, professionals, doctors, teachers etc. Do your own research and be willing to learn. Waiting for kids to grow up and think that they will learn by themselves could be too late. Don’t miss the opportunity of early intervention.

Finally, these words taught to us during Sahana’s ABA therapy have always stayed with me, “Parents are the best advocates for their own kids.”

About CAREbuddy

CAREbuddy is one of CaringSG’s Project 3i programmes where trained special needs caregivers (CAREbuddies) provide emotional support to fellow special needs caregivers.

Trainees go through a total of 24 hours of training, followed by 6 months of internship upon graduation. During internship, CAREbuddy interns begin to support fellow caregivers, and our trainers will mentor them as well.

Please join our FB page to receive more updates on how to sign up, and read more about CAREbuddy at 

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Increasing Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusivity – from our Board Member, Dr Nurhidayati M Suphan

Increasing Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusivity - from our Board Member, Dr Nurhidayati M Suphan

                                        Increasing Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusivity – from our Board Member, Dr Nurhidayati M Suphan

April is World Autism Month, dedicated to increasing awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared 2nd April as World Autism Awareness Day to highlight the need to improve the quality of life of those with autism, so they can lead full and meaningful lives as an integral part of society. 

The autism community needs acceptance, more crucially, from society at large. Acceptance can lead to greater support, which is necessary for autistic people to reach their full potential.

Based on a true story, my niece wrote her first book, to help create awareness on autism amongst children. We hope we can facilitate acceptance at a younger age, so that our society may grow into a more inclusive society. 

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From Despair to Hope, A Caregiver’s Emotional Journey – By Kelvin Seah

From Despair to Hope, A Caregiver’s Emotional Journey – By Kelvin Seah

This is my story of autism.

When C, my youngest of two boys, turned two years of age, we noticed he liked to spin objects like a lid or a toy plate, and even large ones like a laundry basket.

As a baby, he didn’t sleep easily, drank milk with great difficulty, ate little, but cried a lot due to acid reflux. He also had frequent breath-holding spells that caused his face to turn blue.

Over the next couple of years, we observed that C lagged behind his peers in gross and fine motor skills. Not to mention socialization skills. 

When he was about three or four, we sent him to the Early Intervention Program for Infants & Children (EIPIC), where he had a suspected GDD (Global Developmental Delay) diagnosis.

At that time, we thought perhaps with help from EIPIC, he will catch up with his peers. That thought gave us some hope.

Still, his progress was glacier-slow, and we felt at many moments helpless and concerned as to what this might mean for his development and entry into primary education later on. We also began to suspect he might have more than just GDD.

One month before he was supposed to start Primary 1, his diagnosis was confirmed. It was moderate autism.

At first, we felt relieved; at last we have a name! But that sense of relief was quickly replaced with many other overwhelming emotions too, not unlike those we first experienced when he went to EIPIC.

We struggled to come to terms with his diagnosis. There were moments of disappointment, guilt, anguish, despair, anger, denial, and fear. All the stages of grief (and then some), but happening in what felt like an endless cycle of ‘rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.

Somehow by God’s grace, we formed connections through various channels that opened up.

Aside from frantic research on our part as clueless parents, my wife and I attended all relevant talks we could find.

We also met and connected with other parents and caregivers through personal contacts, school networks, and online communities.

These gave us the assurance that we’re not alone, and we needn’t be.

In 2019, we succeeded in getting him enrolled in Pathlight, a school for kids with mild to moderate autism. It felt like a huge boulder had finally rolled off our shoulders.

It’s been three years now, and while we don’t know how the next few will look like, we’re hopeful the people and resources we got connected with, will make what would otherwise have been a lonely, fearful caregiver journey, one that’s now more hopeful? 

And maybe every now and then, joyful?

But for now, our story with C continues to unfold. For now, we just give thanks for every day we get to spend with him.

To fellow caregivers, I would like to encourage you that it’s okay to ask for help because no one should have to walk such an arduous journey alone. In particular, I hope more dads would let their guard down and come forward to seek help — it’s not a cop-out or a cowardly thing to be vulnerable. In fact, owning up to a need for help is the real brave thing to do!

Kelvin, his wife Shaw Hui, and their two sons at East Coast Park in April 2021 (photoshoot was conducted according to SMM requirements) 

Kelvin Seah is a father to two boys, born 2009 and 2011. His younger son was diagnosed with autism when he was six. Besides blogging about his caregiving journey, Kelvin is also a volunteer with CaringSG. He completed his CAREbuddy training in 2021 and will begin his internship providing emotional and informational support to fellow caregivers. 

Learn more about CAREbuddy here, and read Kelvin Seah’s original post on his autism journey here.

Photos courtesy of Kelvin Seah. Featured photo was taken on April 2019.

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Walking With Wei Ping, A Special Mum

Walking With Wei Ping, A Special Mum

“I was sad for a while, but my personality is that I can ‘detach’ because sadness gets you nowhere; sadness is stagnant. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be sad. But you should also need to prioritise when to move on. When you’re resting, then you can grieve.”

– Wei Ping, mother of Yang, her 18-year-old son with autism



Walking through Wei Ping’s story as she shared over coffee, was like experiencing the dramatic highs and lows of a caregiver’s emotional journey.

When Yang was a baby, she realised he needed more attention to interact with her, and took 3 months of leave to spend time with him. She read about floor therapy and purchased a thin mattress to do 20 minutes of floor time with him a day, adding that eye contact only came at the end of 4 months. He also had seizures at 1 years old and was diagnosed with ASD at a very young age.

“He will sit in the corner for hours. He won’t go out of his comfort zone circumference to get a toy just out of his reach. He’ll flap hands and exhibit classic ASD behaviour.”

Wei Ping went to the internet to search for any information that could help him, including putting him on a GFCF diet to reduce his seizures.

“I went to the world wide web and read until my eyes popped out. I was desperate to know.

I mean, it’s just my personality. I will ask questions, what GFCF is about. Taking milk was a big issue for him so he had diarrhea and constipation all his life since he was born.”

Along the way, she picked up information about vestibular, tactile activities via occupational therapy, read about supplements, and borrowed books from parents who were able to afford and purchase books on autism and diets. She wanted to understand the principles of how to help autistic kids holistically, and how to apply what she learnt to support Yang’s daily routines.

“My son was so rigid that everything little thing will trigger him. When he had afternoon nap, he wouldn’t sleep until 3-4am. However, I was young then and had energy to sleep late. Hence, I would read a lot at night, and do mind mapping (of how to help Yang).”

Another challenge was Yang’s aggressive response to sensory challenges. Wei Ping used to get scratches where her skin was not covered when Yang had a meltdown. When Wei Ping and family moved back to Singapore from the US, the environment was generally noisier. Even the sound of birds chirping or crickets in the park could trigger panic in Yang.

“He’s very sensory. Cannot touch sand, cut fingernails, cut hair, shower. Neighbourhood hair stylists didn’t want to cut his hair. He also had his ears cut before. But now he’s better. He tolerates the process.”

He also didn’t eat very much until he was 12. Mealtime was a fight and he would only eat 2 mouthfuls of her homecooked food in school, refusing to eat anything else.

She enrolled Yang in occupational therapy (OT) but found it was expensive. To save costs, she tried to learn as much and do the OT with her son at home or at the playground such as the sandpit. To further support Yang, Wei Ping also found two therapists who came to her house thrice a week to do ABA, which she found helpful for her son’s development.

Although Yang attended Rainbow Centre and Wei Ping felt the teachers were good, she felt he was not suitable in a big school and decided to enrol him in a smaller private school after a few years. She also tried speech therapy, however she withdrew him as she felt he was not ready yet. Subsequently she restarted speech therapy when he was 13 years old.

“There’s a time for everything. Parents may feel that a particular therapy is no good because you did not meet a suitable therapist. Or maybe at that point of time, your child is not ready. Although Yang was not ready for speech therapy as a child, I could see he wanted to speak when he turned 13. He’s quite attentive now. His diction improved, and he can speak.”


Training Yang in life skills

In the past, Yang used to be so rigid that if he and Wei Ping walked to his grandma’s house and deviated slightly from the usual route (such as walking round the other side of the pillar), he would have a meltdown.

If he was sitting in the car driven by Wei Ping, he would insist that his mum park at the same parking lot every day, and she could not brake suddenly or it would trigger his anxiety. For example, once when Wei Ping had to suddenly break at a red light, Yang panicked and threw a toy at the windscreen (“Luckily it didn’t break!”).

Wei Ping worried that her son would continue to throw tantrums as a teenager, so from 4 years old she started his “training” of basic rules he needed to know, and life skills he needed to possess.

“You cannot control every single thing in your kid’s life. Just choose top 3 priority areas, pick your battles. For everything else, either redirect or look into it at a later date. The areas will change as your child grows.”

“When I was training flexibility in the route from my house to grandma’s house, I tried one new route, and when he’s 70% there (being able to accept the new route), I start on another new route. I also expanded his exposure to different ambient noises such as a baby crying, a bus going past.”

She would use off peak periods such as mid-afternoons to take Yang out just to train him to walk to the nearby shopping mall or go to the airport. She trained him to walk beside her without having to hold his hand, allowing him to go wherever he wanted, as long as he walked beside her.

She taught him how to take the MRT first, then subsequently the bus much later.

“Training tolerance of MRT: take one stop from Simei to Tampines and come back. Then slowly expand to going to Tampines Mall, walking one round and coming back. It could sometimes take years to train a route.”

She also trained him in being patient, such asking him to wait until she finished eating at the coffee shop before buying him a drink. While waiting, he would have a watch and a fidget cube to help him pass the time, and she would then deliver his promised reward.

By building trust with him, and fulfilling what she has promised him, she helped him work on expanding his tolerance and understanding.

Due to Wei Ping’s relentless efforts at exposing Yang to different activities, Yang has tried farm skills at a hydroponics farm, soccer, and also going on stand-up paddling excursions at sea.

At night, she would reflect on her day, recap what happened, and do an after-action review (such as what went well, what didn’t go so well, what she could have improved) on the incidences that happened during the day.

“I would think of what to do differently and develop Plan A and Plan B if the incidence happens again. I visualize what could happen and use trial and error. If both plan A and B don’t work, it’s back to the drawing block. The analysing is very important. Sometimes it’s not that the Plan A didn’t work, but it was the first time you tried it, and it needs more time as you cannot see immediate results.”

From her long journey, she knows how clueless and scared new caregivers are, even when surrounded by more awareness and information on special needs.

“Too much knowledge is overpowering. Parents don’t understand, or they feel overwhelmed, or they are very very busy.”

Because of what she went through, she decided to set up Shoulders, a support group for caregivers to share information relevant to other caregivers, so that they wouldn’t have to struggle to find the right information like how she struggled in the past, trying to read everything she could find and figuring out what works.

About Lim Wei Ping and Shoulders Support Group:

Lim Wei Ping is a special mum to her only son, Yang. She quit her job when he was a child to care for him full-time. In 2010, she set up Shoulders support group to share information and resources useful for special needs caregivers. She also founded YoungstarSG, a community initiative and social enterprise, to provide home-based work for teens and adults with autism, in 2018.

To be updated on CaringSG’s latest events and join your preferred caregiver support groups in our CaringSG Alliance Network (CAN), sign up as a CaringSG member and let us know your preference!

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How Do Special Needs Caregivers Survive and Thrive?

How Do Special Needs Caregivers Survive and Thrive?

Caregiver support groups play a critical role for special needs caregivers by providing us with the networks and resources we need. Every group was set up by a founder (or group of founders) who put in much time, heart and soul into creating safe spaces for fellow caregivers to converse.

When Siti Zulaiha’s son Nafiz was first diagnosed with autism in 2010, she was working as a nurse in an international school where her colleagues helped her with useful materials on autism. In addition, she also had prior experience as a Head Nurse in a residential home for the special needs. Her skills, experience and networks enabled her to access resources to help Nafiz.

Siti looked around for caregiver support groups, but could not find any specifically for Muslims, and wondered where all the Muslim voices were. After she decided to start a private Singapore Muslim Autism Support Group for Muslim caregivers whose children had autism, more Muslim caregivers got in touch with her via word of mouth to join the group. 

She realised that many Muslim caregivers hid their child’s condition from the public (and even from other family members), with no one to turn to. It was only because she had started a private group, that these caregivers emerged from their place of loneliness. 

With a safe space to share their thoughts and feelings with other caregivers, the Singapore Muslim Autism Support Group has since grown to 300 members. Siti also decided to start a public Facebook group for Muslim caregivers looking after dependents with any type of special needs which now has over a thousand members.

As the groups primarily focus on emotional support and personal sharing, caregivers often reveal not only their concerns, but also feel confident enough to share their successes.

For example, there was a thread where caregivers shared how they used affordable DIY tricks to transform their wall, room or even entire house to accommodate the learning needs of their special needs dependent, resembling a colourful therapy centre or indoor playground.

In the caregiver support groups, caregivers exchanged tips on many topics, such as what courses to take and how to handle issues like toilet training.


Siti also shared an amazing  testimonial of a mum who could not speak English as she only had a Primary Five education. Through diligently learning English together with her special needs son as he progressed through his education, this mum even decided to set up her own salon!

With Siti’s support groups as two of various special needs support groups in Singapore, caregivers have more avenues to seek emotional support and learn from one another to thrive.

About Siti Zulaiha, Singapore Muslim Special Needs Support Group, and Singapore Muslim Autism Support Group:

Siti Zulaiha is a special mum to four boys. Her third boy, Nafiz, was diagnosed with autism in 2010. Besides setting up the two caregiver support groups mentioned in this article, she actively writes to MPs to lobby for caregivers and their dependents to have better access to services, such as reducing the waiting list for EIPIC, and helping special needs children transition better after pre-school.

She currently runs two support groups:

    • Singapore Muslim Special Needs Support Group: a Facebook group for Muslims with special needs dependents
    • Singapore Muslim Autism Support Group: a private Facebook group for Muslims with autistic dependents


To be updated on CaringSG’s latest events and join your preferred caregiver support groups in our CaringSG Alliance Network (CAN), sign up as a CaringSG member and let us know your preference!

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