I collaborated with caregivers of people with moderate to severe autism who are 18 years old and above. People with moderate to severe Autism have the less opportunities to find employment in our society. Most of them require the full attention of their caregivers. Their caregivers constantly watch over them.
The concept of the work explores a collaborative effort between the caregivers and myself. I photograph most of the primary caregivers and their care recipient in a double exposed image. The idea of a double exposed image came about as caregiving is an endless task. When they are not physically together, they are still constantly on the caregivers’ mind. The image of Choo Kah Ying is an exception. Her son, Sebastian has been relocated to Bali and has another primary caregiver in Bali. Kah Ying talks about letting go and it is one of the hardest things to do for a mother.
The caregivers are invited to paint and draw on the canvas printed with their image. This is to express their challenges, dreams or hopes through their journey of caregiving.
Commissioned by Lien Foundation for "Personally Speaking - The Art of Caregiving" in 2018
Peng Wei Yan, 51, is a homemaker and caregiver to her son, Zhen Yu, 24, who has low functioning autism. Zhen Yu is unemployed.
原本" 白发人送黑发人是一种悲哀" ， 但对于我们这些养育了特殊孩子的父母而言，
却是一种圆满的结局" - 燕子
"My son has low functioning autism , ADHD and a low IQ with learning disabilities. After many years of helplessness and struggle with his situation, I’ve learnt to accept his condition.
As his autism is severe, I do not harbour hopes and dreams for him. I only wish for peaceful days without meltdowns and to pass each day as normally as possible.
No parent should have to bury their child, but for parents with special needs children, that might be the best solution for us." - Wei Yan
A Rainbow and its Promises
Karen Yeo, 59, is a homemaker and caregiver to her son Joshua, 25, who has moderate to low functioning autism. Joshua is employed as a Junior Urban Farmer by Citizen Farm.
"The rainbow usually appears after rain; it is very colourful and lovely. To me, the rainbow signifies hope, happiness and promises. The dark clouds with light rain and the rainbow depicts my caregiving journey as I grow old and will not be able to continue to care for my son, Joshua, indefinitely. But there is hope.
The two rows of people holding hands represent community and the support it can provide for those who may be weaker and need help somehow. As society advances, just like the meadows, it will open up more wide spaces with awareness and acceptance of all living within it.
My wish is that when my time runs out on this earth, there will be others - family, friends and the others in our community who will look out for my son. I hope for acceptance of him, and that he can live a safe and normal life. Even the flowers will bloom for him."
Hands that make a difference
Koh Soek Ying, 52, is the founder of the social enterprise, Mustard Tree (www.mustardtree.com.sg) and caregiver to her son, Ryan Koh, 22, who has moderate autism. Ryan is a craftsman and artist at Mustard Tree.
"Hands that nurture, comfort and protect. Hands that uphold, uplift and pray. Hands that support, applaud and lead. Hands that bring joy and hurt, that create and destroy. This colorful myriad of emotions and actions is exactly our journey with autism.
Our hope for Ryan is for him to be happy in whatever he does, to reach as far as his abilities lead him, to soar like an eagle. Just as what God has planned for him." - Soek Ying
奈何 / It is what it is
Tan Ah Yaw, 61, is a caregiver to her son Zibin, 27, who has low functioning autism. Zibin is unemployed.
"问我累吗？ 我当然很累， 一辈子的牵挂一辈子的担忧，还要面对喜怒无常，行为怪异的孩子，会不累吗？ 无奈事实就是事实要去面对它 ,但还要面对外人 的不理解,常常提问和建议一些让你不知道如何回答的問題的时候 ，会感到无奈又难过。
为了照顾孩子我需要牺牲自己的最爱 ，就是出国旅游， 我也只能寄托于在梦里去旅游， 但不一定会梦得到。" -
"Am I tired? Of course, I am. I constantly worry about my son’s condition and future, and have to face his tantrums and meltdowns.
I have no choice but to face the reality of Zibin’s condition, but when ignorant strangers try to offer me solutions or give me ridiculous suggestions, I feel frustrated and sad. To live on means to face these challenges, no matter how tough. I just have to accept the way things are.
I have to sacrifice my love of travelling because there is no way I can bring him along or leave him behind. I can only travel in my dreams, but even then, I don’t always get to dream of it." - Ah Yaw
Journey towards Hope
Tonia Chan, 48, is a homemaker/tutor and caregiver to her daughter Gloria, 18, who has moderate autism. Gloria is studying in an SPED school and will graduate this year.
"Gloria sees and thinks simply. For every step she takes, I hope there will be light to show her the path.
That is why I use orange on each step. The foundation of the steps is green because most people with autism like the colour green. There are high steps to signify progression, and low steps to signify stagnation. Each step she takes leads to Hope. The sunflower is Gloria’s favourite flower. Parenting Gloria was like walking in the dark with heavy footsteps.
As I progress, glimmer of light and sparks of hope seem to ignite. We hope that we will work together to find God’s purpose in Gloria’s life and live every day to her fullest potential. We Dare to Dream." - Tonia
Chan Mei Leng, 55 is a realtor and her husband Eugene, 55 is retired. They are the parents to Min-Shan 24, who has low functioning autism. Shun, 21 is her brother. They are all caregivers to Min-Shan. Min-Shan is unemployed.
"Min-shan has low functioning autism and that means a low level of independence. As much as we strive as a family to help her in this area, we are mindful of the importance of the “heart” of mankind.
Thus, often I recite to her the bible verse on the fruit of the Holy Spirit and hope these attributes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will become a part of who she is."
- Mei Leng
When love means letting go
Choo Kah Ying, 47 is a writer/educator and founder of A Mother’s Wish (www.amotherswish.com.sg). Her son, Sebastien Choo, 22, has moderate autism. Sebastien lives in Bali, while Kah Ying lives in Singapore.
"In August 2016, I moved Sebastien, my then 20-year-old autistic son to Bali, after struggling with his aggression and self-injury, which started during his puberty.
It was a heartbreaking decision. As a homeschooling mother for 10 years, I had wanted to “save” my son from his condition. Ultimately, I learnt that what was best for us was to give him the space and time to grow up, away from me. I had to let go.
Today, my mission is to ensure that my social enterprise, A Mother’s Wish, becomes a sustainable source of income for Sebastien when I am gone. We also hope to fund the free village school for the poor with special needs he attends in Bali, and other programmes for individuals with special needs requiring lifelong support.
With this mission, I am reaching out to society for support. We families cannot care for our special children on our own. When society puts us up on a pedestal as selfless and self-sacrificing heroes, it walks away from its responsibility. It truly takes a global village to raise all children, especially those who might need a lifetime of help." - Kah Ying