Raising a child with autism is a walk in the park. A park with dinosaurs and nasty creatures stomping around, that is. All right, I know that’s exaggerating, but putting metaphors aside, raising a child with autism is not easy, especially in Malaysia. Autism awareness is still low in this country and in all honesty, we’re still not ready for neuro-diversity communities in Malaysia .Throughout my son’s growing up period, I’ve been told alot of things, simply because my son is differently-abled. When he was 6 years old, I was told that I should not bring him out from the house and should just put him away in some mental institution because of his inability to socialize and his constant meltdown episodes.
Friends and relatives said a lot of cruel things to me, and naturally I was depressed for awhile and kept my son at home with me and isolated ourselves from the society. Then things got worst for both of us. The more we isolate ourselves from the society, the worst things gets. Meltdown episodes are more often than ever and I was feeling almost suicidal. Then it occured to me that listening to judgemental people is not doing anyone any good, and I must snap out of it. From then onwards, I started doing what I wanted to do with my son. I started to grow some fangs that bites and stopped paying attention to negative opinions. I started to bring him everywhere with me so that he can adapt to his environment and slowly, he started to improve and thrive. I was enlightened by his progress and started to believe that he can go far and achieve alot. All he needs is a fighting chance.
I’m constantly looking for ways to make a lot of things possible for my son, and since I’ve been certified as an Open Water Scuba Diver recently, I thought of introducing him to some underwater world adventure since he is fond of water activities.
Problems? Yes. Most dive centres in Malaysia does not cater to special needs or differently-abled individuals. Most dive centres in Malaysia does not have qualified instructors to teach special need individuals. More often than not, my son will be turned away and I will be told that it’s not possible for him to try scuba diving. Can’t honestly say I blamed them for turning us away. I understand that scuba diving is only a fun and safe sport if you follow rules and is well trained for it. I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to be held accountable should any untoward accidents occured.
Anyway, I was about to give up on the idea of introducing the underwater world to my son until I came across Kids Scuba, a Malaysia based dive centre that’s officially partnered with Diveheart, a non-profit organization that support educational scuba diving programs that are open to any child, adult or veteran who are special needs and differently-abled. Diveheart works with people who have a variety of disabilities, and this includes physical and developmental disabilities. They cater to vision and hearing impairments, traumatic brain injuries, amputations, PTSD and many more. With their tagline “Imagine the Possibilities”, Diveheart seeks to add values to its participants’ lives through scuba diving.
So, I signed up my son for an adaptive Discover Scuba program at Kids Scuba. ‘Adaptive’ as opposed to the regular Open Water courses is a scuba diving program that caters to special needs and differently-abled individuals. And here’s the boy with a Diveheart Malaysia volunteer, Ms. Majidah Hashim. Video briefing was done before any water activities is introduced.
And just like any other Open Water Diver courses, proper introduction to scuba equipments and hand signal briefing is done as well.
From left: Mr. Syed Abd Rahman, the Founder and Director of Kids Scuba and Ms. Majidah Hashim, assisting my son with the scuba gear fitting in the pool prior to the Discover Scuba session.
Done fitting, all is okay and ready to go.
Water confidence session with Mr. Syed Abd Rahman, the instructor in charge of my son’s Discover Scuba session.
More water confidence session.
Upon evaluation by my son’s instructor, Mr. Syed Abd Rahman, or more fondly known as Uncle Syed among the children, the boy needs to wear a full face mask due to his spasm that does not allow him to properly bite into the regulator that helps him to ease his breathing while diving.
Underwater activities with Uncle Syed.
Introduction to Adaptive Scuba Diving is done in a fun and interactive way in a safe environment.
At the end of the session, my husband and I were allowed to join in for a family photo, so here’s us with the kid and Uncle Syed.
Overall it was a wonderful experience for my family. Both the instructor and the Diveheart Malaysia volunteer are very kind, patient and attentive towards my son and I feel like I can trust them with his life.
For those who are with kids and would like to try scuba diving, you may contact them and book a session. I promise you, you’ll have a fantastic and memorable time underwater. The dive centre is not only specialized in training young children and special needs, but caters to people from all walks of life as well, so go ahead. Don’t be shy.
Last but not least, if you are a certified diver and interested to be trained as an Adaptive Dive Buddy or to be a Diveheart volunteer you may contact Kids Scuba PADI 5 Star Dive Center or refer to the contacts and info below:
Contact: Syed Abd Rahman +6019-3176705
Email: [email protected] or