Kasia’s World by John Garabadian

Written by Guest Writer

July 7, 2020

Our lovely daughter, Kasia, was born in April 2000, in Bangkok, Thailand. The second of our two daughters, the first being Kadia, born in February 1999 in Singapore. Her mom being from Thailand and her Dad, that’s me, being Armenian / American. 

I remember our joy in expanding our family and also the transition we were experiencing during the period, moving countries, from Singapore to Thailand, moving job locations, and me having to travel (or be away from home) 80% of the time. May have caused a lot of stress for the family and the pregnancy, as I am learning the massive impact and correlation between STRESS and Autism. 

I also recall her mother saying that Kasia was not moving much (or at all) during the pregnancy compared to the first child, but all doctor checks during this time did not highlight anything wrong. So, rushing back for the birth, it was a quick delivery, but the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck, which may have caused a lack of oxygen flowing to her brain and her brain development, I am not sure about this exactly. 

The first year was pretty normal, vaccinations and check ups, etc., all seemed pretty normal, except her movement was slow, she tended to just walk on her toes, and was barely talking or forming words, eye contact was poor, but as we had no idea about what Autism was at the time, we just thought normal development, just a bit slow. But at about 1.5 years, we had a full check up, as something did not seem right. And at this point she was diagnosed with Autism. 

Again, we were what the heck is Autism? As it was relatively new during this time, we went to the books to study (well, Internet was just coming along)…Then we were just into what do we do to help her live a normal life, what can we do, beyond the guilt, blame, fear, and of course “what did we do wrong?”

For all you parents out there, this is an important lesson, you did nothing wrong? Get past blaming yourselves, move into what can I do mode. This is key for your child. I would say check the vaccinations your child is getting and when, although there is no proven link, it is wise to err on the side of caution. 

At this point, we had to develop a plan to try and help her. The various doctors, and let me say they were some of the best Autism specialists in the country for sure (thanks to my lovely wife for finding them!), they prescribed some medicine to help her brain development, which we stopped after about a month, as it made her into a complete zombie, and therapy, therapy, therapy……So we went this route. 

Her schedule was daily therapy, with 2-3 different doctors and therapy sessions, brain development, speed talk, and physical therapies to improve her muscles, which were very weak, along with some local Thailand remedies (won’t go into these), but it was a very busy time for her mother, thank god and all the angels for her, as without her dedication and caring for Kasia, she would not even be at the level she is today. 

One regret is paying all of our attention to Kasia, where our older daughter felt neglected, even though she had my wife’s sister with her 24-7. When Kadia, our older daughter, could really express herself, believe me, she did. “Why are you always spending time with Kasia”. So I’m sorry Kadia. 

Please take this as advice parents…..pay attention.

Now that her behavior was okay, she would have some upsetting episodes, screaming and letting everything go!, it was rare and we had some techniques to help her, it was time to find her a school and some activities, art, music, etc., that she could get involved with. As we were also speaking two languages, Thai and English at home, this was another decision, so we decided to focus on one. As we were in Thailand, and the schools in Thai, we chose Thai as her primary language, and English tutoring at home.

I have to say it was a lot of trial and errors for school. I would say we tried at least 10 schools before we finally found one school. No fault of the schools, Autism was (and still is) an unknown, and a lot of the schools, in Thailand at least, were unprepared to teach these students. Fortunately, in the USA, there are a lot of specialists to help Autistic children. 

When she was 10, we found her a school that catered for special needs children, but also had non-autistic children (hate to say “Normal”) attending classes together, along with an assistant to follow her (and help her) during the school periods. Although still socially shy, one thing about Autistic children is they process things differently, meaning they see and hear everything through different eyes. But she seemed to like going to school, except the commute to the school was 2 hours each way, so we had to wake up super early each day, 5 am, and sleep for these children is super important. So long days, but this is the least we could do for our child. Besides being behind a few grades, and going to school with younger children, she was always, always happy to go to school. Her reading, writing, and math were good, and she was developing. 

On eating, she was a picky eater in her early days, and still likes specific foods, rice of course being in Thailand, but after going to school she was more flexible on her eating habits, and now she can eat anything (and does).

Which is a problem as she has gained a lot of weight in the last 5-6 years. 

Unfortunately, around 2017, we had some family health problems, were my wife’s father was very ill, and my wife moved to her family home in the countryside to take care of him. As we did not have the resources to continue her schooling, my wife brought Kasia with her and removed her from school before she could complete high school. This was very hard for Kasia, and we cried a lot, as she really loved school, and would always say I want to go to school. But we had limited options at this point. I’m sorry Kasia. 

So today, she is pretty normal (again I hate this word!) has certain behaviors that we are used too, somethings upset her, but we know how to manage them the best we can. Unfortunately, she has been experiencing epileptic seizures for the last few years, about once every 2-3 weeks, which we have tried different remedies, diet, olive oil, lemon, fish oils, CBD (just legalized last year), and other methods, it is just hard on us, and we keep trying to keep her happy as much as we can and limit her diet (which is the most difficult), and them being in Thailand and me here, as we are relocating back the USA, its not so easy for our family, but we are trying to stay as positive as we can. 

In summary, and for some recommendations or advice we can give after all of these years, would be as follows:

A. If something doesn’t seem right very early on, get it checked out immediately

B. If he or she is diagnosed as Autistic, overdose on therapy. It takes a lot of re-programming of the brain to help your child. Get help early.

C. Be careful and do your research on vaccines. Like I said above, I am not saying there is any correlation, but the increase in Autism is unknown, so just be extremely careful. 

D. Keep your kids active and don’t let them zone out on phones or electronics (this is our biggest struggle) – try some down time.

E. Diet: Work on this most of all. 

F. Stress: De-stress your world, especially in pregnancy and at all times. I know this is very hard, but when you are stressed, go into another room or outside and scream into a pillow. Please.

G. Exercise: Great for children. 

H. Routine: These children are highly into their routines, it is good to get into a specific routine, and this leads to the Stress thing, make it less stressful.

I hope this helps in some way, shape or form for any expecting parents or new parents. Just sharing our story. The millions and millions of kids out there with Autism can lead a normal life. It is up to us to make that happen. There is no blame on you as parents. Just try to manage the best you can and do everything (I mean really everything) in your power to help them.

Sending love and joy to all of you out there. You can help your child have a happy life. God Bless you all. 

8 Comments

  1. Janet

    An enlightening article for those of us who have not experienced this.

    God Bless & keep you safe as you wait to reunite with your family.

    Reply
    • Erika Petrie

      Thank you Janet. We are trying to make our live articles as varied as possible and to create a platform to give a voice to all differently able children and for parents and anyone involved with them to be able to exchange stories, views and opinions that matter.

      Reply
      • AMERJEET

        Wow John – thanks for sharing your experience.
        Must have been so difficult to balance work, family and health demands.
        But you are a strong person with a lovely family. This is another test of life and you have passed with the amount of love you have shown towards your daughters and wife.
        God bless and wishing you all a happy future.

        Reply
        • Erika Petrie

          Thank you for your very valid comment. John’s story is indeed beautiful and real and also talks about all the challenges we can have as parents, irrespective of whether are children are ‘differently able’ or not…there is a lesson for all of us in what John has written. Bless you John. Thank you for sharing your story.

          Reply
      • Judy Blackiemore

        Thanks for sharing John. All good suggestions for any child to live their lives. She is a beautiful gal

        Reply
        • Erika Petrie

          Thank you for your valid comment on John’s article, Judy…it is indeed very practical and helpful in it’s telling.

          Reply
  2. Mike

    A wonderful and informative article of great value even to those of us fortunate not to have experienced the challenges that you and your family have faced. I remember Kasia and Kadia from my days working with you and can vouch for the accuracy of your recollections. Your recommendation that a positive can-do mindset is more productive than a blame mentality is appropriate not only to someone with an autism personality but also to many others with different characteristics eg Asperger’s, dementia etc . Being different is painful but not sinful and supportive environment can make a real contribution to the wellbeing of both the victim and the carers.

    Reply
    • Erika Petrie

      Indeed you are right Mike and I will go so far as to say, that a positive can-do mindset can go a long way in any situation with any child, whether they have a diagnosis or not, because we can always experience challenges as parents…the important thing is dealing with them in the right way and being able to set an example in a constructive way, bearing in mind our children will one day be adults themselves too.

      Reply

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