When Elyn Pow’s son Jacob turned two, she had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right. It turns out Jacob was autistic. “As mothers, we tend to listen to our gut feelings. Whenever Jacob was ill and saw a doctor, we were always reminded to bring him for a check-up to confirm if he was autistic,” shares Elyn who also runs Rawsome, a healthy food company that advocates active lifestyle.
As a mum with an autistic child, how does your role differ from other mums? Was it a growth period for you?
At first I felt really worried because it is something I never expected to experience. Things like this only happens to a friend of a friend or someone else. It was a whole new world to me. I tried to read up about the subject as much as possible but soon realised that every special kid is unique in their own way. I realised that there is no text book you can refer to in this situation but it will merely be a guideline for you to understand what’s going on. It definitely made me stronger and changed the way I see things.
What were the challenges you faced raising an autistic child and how did you overcome it?
Challenges are aplenty as every day is an opportunity for Jacob to discover and develop something new. The learning process is never ending. Allowing him to join and play with other children is one of the challenges that I often face even up till today. I find myself always protecting him as I fear that he may be bullied by other kids or even laughed at and called out as the weird kid by others. Special kids possess a pure, innocent heart and when bad things happen to them, they can’t quite fully comprehend the situation. As parents, we don’t want to dampen their spirits and confidence because it took a lot of effort to build that.
How would you describe your parenting style?
Always try to understand them, see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel, listen to them and observe what they do. Always sit next to them and make them feel comfortable so they can open up and express themselves. Work together as a team as they need support.
As a working mum, how has raising an autistic child shaped your view of the world and influenced the way you run a business?
It’s no longer just about business, it is more about changing lives, listening to the community on their wants and needs, making decisions based on that. This experience has also made me more focused and passionate in my work. Of course the dream is to grow Rawsome into a big brand and nurture this little dude to take over the reins. As a parent with a special kid, you are afraid to find out if your child will be accepted by society or the workforce. Questions such as how are they going to be independent when we are no longer around, what is the plan, how are they going to cope, what are our options often run through my mind. I also want to share more about autism to instil awareness in a society that will be able to accept and understand.
How do you spend quality time with your son?
Besides watching television, I spend time with Jacob designing little pictures on Powerpoint for my business as he loves designing. On most weekends, I try to bring him along when I visit the Rawsome outlets to show him what I do for a living.
What are your tips for parenting a child with autism?
Each child is unique in their own way, there is plenty of information available online which can be overwhelming at times. Opening up and sharing information with other parents who have autistic kids is one way of coping. Besides that, support from family members is also crucially important. Never ever think or label them as different, try to perceive them as a superhuman in a way you can never imagine. We do not see what they see because we take things for granted or perceive what we want to perceive. Things that they interpret, you can never in your wildest imagination interpret the way they do. They make us see things in a different perspective.