Changing hearts and minds


A call for greater acceptance of autism in the Asian community 

My daughter Aaisha is the unconditional love of my life. Now 18 years old, she’s funny, loving and always joking around. She sounds like your average 18-year-old, only she isn’t. Aaisha has autism; she doesn’t understand the world we live in and probably never will.

To travel with autism is surely one of the most heart breaking journeys a parent can face. It is an invisible condition and to many, Aaisha looks just like everyone else. They don’t see her meltdowns or mood swings like we, her family, do. They don’t experience the pain we feel.

It’s hard to explain how my heart breaks during one of Aaisha’s meltdowns – hard to make others understand just what autism can do to a parent. My daughter will never experience the things that most people her age will, but should she be neglected or rejected by society because she has autism? Should she be excluded because she doesn’t understand everything you tell her or because she can’t respond to everything you want or ask her to do?

Autism is something that is hardly ever talked about in the Asian community. When it is, it is often misunderstood, and some people see autism as a mental health issue, which we know is not the case. Coming from the Asian community – a culture I’m extremely proud of – I feel I need to make a difference to my community and to raise awareness and understanding of autism. I need my community to understand our journey and to show greater acceptance of autism.

My daughter is a very special gift that should be shared with the world. Autism is a huge part of our family and although, if I’m honest, I’m not a huge fan of autism, I have embraced and accepted that it will forever be in our lives. Children with autism do make progress and they do go on to do some amazing things in their lives. And, of course, we should never forget that children with autism go on to become adults with autism; this is a life-long condition.

Every child with autism has the right to have the same opportunities as everyone else. Every child with autism has the right to be understand. Every child with autism deserves a chance.

It’s never easy with an autistic child; in fact, sometimes it’s very hard and will push you to the very edge. With love and patience, though, progress can and is made; my daughter is living proof of that. This journey has almost broken me many times but not once did I think of giving up on her. She will make progress; she will do things they said she can’t and I will fight for her and guide her as we take this journey together.

I have now made it my mission to help my community to understand autism and to have greater acceptance of these amazing children, so they too can feel a part of the community they belong to and have the same opportunities as everyone else. Autism is nothing to be ashamed of and it should never be seen as a burden. I consider myself extremely blessed to be the mother of such a special girl. No matter how bad it gets or how much this condition may push you, the love you have for your child will always override it. I wouldn’t change anything about my daughter because then she wouldn’t be the special girl she is. What I will try to change is the awareness and acceptance of autism amongst many in the Asian community.

Further information

Pam Kaur Malhi blogs about her family’s experiences of autism at:


Pam Malhi
Author: Pam Malhi

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