Adam's Autism Family: Parenting a child with autism and his non-autistic siblings

02 Apr 2022 07:50am
Iman Wan Tuck Meng (third from the left) of Adam's Autism Family with his wife, three kids, and godmother.
Iman Wan Tuck Meng (third from the left) of Adam's Autism Family with his wife, three kids, and godmother.

Adam’s Autism Family garnered attention nationwide when the account first shared content on the family’s day-to-day responsibilities of their nonverbal autistic family member, Adam Wan Mun Yu.

The account was created by Adam’s father, Iman Wan Tuck Meng, who first noticed signs that Adam was not like other children when he did not respond positively to toys but was paying more attention to the price tags attached to the toys instead.

“Being a father to a severe nonverbal autistic son has been rough. Adam struggles with extensive emotional and sensory issues, which often leads to meltdowns, tantrums and even depression sometimes,” Iman said on his Instagram story.

He started the account because he wanted to show members of the public that Adam’s autism journey is uniquely his own, and that it is a journey that the entire family of six (including their godmother) must undertake together with Adam.

Now, Adam’s Autism Family has garnered 410,000 followers (and counting) on Instagram alone. Iman’s hope is that the accounts will help members of the public develop more empathy, have more compassion, and become more understanding and aware of the autism spectrum disorder.

“Adam is 20 now, and that means it’s been 18 years since he was first diagnosed. You need to know that back then, there weren’t as much information on autism, and we had no idea what was in store for us.

“To say that we have it figured out now would not be true either. Adam, just like everyone else, is constantly changing as a person. It is an ongoing process,” Iman told Sinar Daily when asked whether things have become more manageable now that Adam’s an adult.

Iman insisted that this is why the social media account exists, so he could refrain from giving the wrong advice to other parents with autistic children - Adam’s journey is uniquely his own, and what works for Adam might not work for others.

It is in human nature, he said, to want to understand things by way of neatly categorising. According to Iman, however, it is not possible to understand autism using that logic.

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“It is a spectrum, and my son is on the severe end of it. Every child with autism is different. We cannot assume that they're all the same,” he explained.

This meant that the past 18 years took a lot of self-learning and open conversations within the family about autism and how to share the responsibility of taking care of Adam.

Home is a very important aspect for Iman, who said that working from home had been nothing short of a blessing to the family as he can now earn an income and still spend time with his kids.

Down the line, Iman realised that he needed to do what was best for his son when he found schools inadequate to take care of Adam while he is at work. This led him to quitting his full-time job as a marketing director in the music industry and turning to direct sales.

In addition, he didn’t want his son to go through the trauma of not being able to speak up for himself when he is in trouble and away from the family.

But this meant that the rest of the family needed to do the same and help out where they can, which is a huge responsibility, especially for his eldest daughter Ariena Lieya, who is only two years older than Adam.

Although Ariena’s love for her brother is immense, Iman recalled how she broke down several times throughout the years at the sheer amount of responsibility.

“I always try to remind her to count her lucky stars. Yes, things have been tough for us as a family but there are so many things and opportunities she currently has that other people can only wish for,” he said.

Limited funds, businesses that never took off, and being in a completely new field had been another challenge for Iman and his family.

“I’m happy with what I’m doing now and I believe this is my calling but I won’t lie to you. I have been through it all.

“I have had my car repossessed, I had to sell my house. I even had only RM100 in my wallet at one point,” Iman shared.

But these struggles, he said, is what made him the father he is today.

When asked how he raised both Adam and his other children alongside each other, Iman said that the challenging part was that there were things his two girls, Ariena and Ara, could not experience growing up.

“Just like any other family, of course we would love to go on holidays and eat out with the family, but we have to accept that these are things we cannot do with Adam around.

This is because Adam can be unpredictable, and the last thing Iman wants to do is to “be a nuisance” to others.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as understanding about Adam’s condition. Iman and his family had to vacate their rental home with no reason given.

When Iman insisted on knowing the reason why they had to search for a new place to stay, he was told that there had been numerous complaints about Adam being “noisy”.

“It is their right to complain but I wish they had been more understanding about his condition. His tantrums often last a few minutes or so and do not happen throughout the whole day.

“What upset me was how I found out, which was through the real estate agent. I do not mind moving out, but it gets tiring,” Iman confessed.

To learn more about autism, check out Autism Speaks. If you are unsure whether your child has autism or not, visit your nearest pediatrician, child psychologist, or pediatric neurologist to confirm the diagnosis.