It was only about two years ago that Ms Jill Lim realised her daughter Kate, who has autism, would not have an academic future. She was not able to do even simple addition.
When Kate was younger, Ms Lim, 46, still had hope that the child would be able to fit into the normal education system.
Kate, now 14, attends St Andrew’s Autism School.
Ms Lim told The New Paper: “There are jobs or training opportunities for people with autism. It’s all about finding the right peg for the right hole.
“For Kate, it just wasn’t school.”
Teaching kids and parents about autism
Ms Lim’s experiences educating her other two daughters, aged 13 and nine, about autism gave her the idea to write a book about it.
Her newly published children’s picture book, My Colouring Book Is Ruined! attempts to explore autism in a manner accessible to younger readers. It features Ms Lim and her three daughters as characters, as Kate’s sisters learn from their mother about autism and the career paths an autistic person can take.
Said Ms Lim: “I would have to explain to my younger girls that Kate might not want to play dolls with them and might prefer to do her own things.”
She added: “When their friends would ask them what’s wrong with their sister, I would have to find words to explain autism to the young children.”
Ms Lim, a book editor with the Straits Times Press, wants to reach out to two groups of people through her book.
The first is children who know little about autism.
“Not everyone has met or knows a person with autism,” she said.
She hopes parents can see her work as a storybook that happens to be about autism.
“It’s like any book about a child who wants to be an astronaut, except this one is about Kate and what she can be when she grows up.”
The second group is families of children with autism. She hopes her picture book can inspire parents of special needs children to never give up hope.
Said Ms Lim: “I think a lot of parents do get discouraged.”
Living with hope
Kate’s future still remains unclear, she admitted.
“In school, they are exposed to different forms of vocational training, like baking or gardening. But her five-year plan is still rather foggy.”
Still, Ms Lim remains hopeful, as autistic children may simply need more time to get used to a particular job.
“Like all parents, we just hope she can find an activity she enjoys.”
The picture book is illustrated by Chloe Chang. It also features two art pieces by students from Pathlight School, an autism-focused school.
“Some people with autism have amazing talents,” Ms Lim said.
“With proper guidance and development, they can learn to support themselves.”
My Colouring Book Is Ruined! is available at all leading bookstores for $16.
She hopes Singaporeans can show more understanding for people with autism.
“Be kind, and be a little more accepting of people who may seem a little different.”
A version of this story first appeared in The New Paper.