When people asked me what we were doing for the summer, I was stumped at the question. You see, we live in summer all year long here in Malaysia — and sometimes endure it, because the temperature can get really hot. The humidity is so intense that my hair would frizz and puff up like a bad 80s music video reject. On the plus side, it means swimming weather all year long, my daughters’ Mei and Min Min’s favorite summertime, well, all year-long activity.
We have a beautiful swimming pool which we swim in regularly. I’m not too happy about the chlorine, but I make sure the girls have an Epsom salt bath after swimming and take extra antioxidants. When we were in Australia, some of our friends had converted their swimming pool to saltwater filtration systems — such a wonderful difference from the chemically-treated chlorine-filled pools we were used to. And of course, we swam in Sydney’s beautiful clean beaches. One of the first things Hubby taught the girls was how to spot bluebottle jellyfish. These painful stingers can be found in Australian beaches and oceans, beware!
We taught the girls to use snorkels and flippers in our swimming pool, but on our trip to Bali earlier this year, we decided to take the girls snorkeling in the ocean for the very first time. Min Min had a sudden case of cold feet, and she refused to get into the ocean even though she’s a good swimmer. She said she was scared to swim near the fish in case they bit her. I did manage to persuade her to try it at least once. Min Min bravely tried and jumped into the ocean. After a short while, she wanted to get out. I was very proud of her — even though she was scared, she still made an effort and tried. So we respected her wishes and she was happy to sit on the boat and watch us. Mei however, took to it like a, well, like a fish to water. She was amazed by the beautiful coral reef and tropical fish. She fed the fishes and loved it when they nibbled on her fingers. Mei is quite the adventurer — she told me she wants to learn how to scuba dive next.
We went to the beautiful islands of Thailand recently to enjoy the blue sky, gorgeous beaches, and the fresh clean air. We did the whole beach island thing; the girls got their hair braided, we went snorkeling and island hopping, including to Koh Phi Phi, the beautiful island immortalized in the movie “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Mei bravely jumped off the long-tail boat and snorkeled in the crystal clear waters. Min Min was a little hesitant, so I suggested she put the life jacket on and just float in the water, which she did, and really enjoyed it too. It was the most hard-core trip the girls have been on; we changed hotels several times, had many last-minute changes to our itinerary, endured multiple, no-frills boat transfers, even took a nap on the deck of a ferry. On this trip, both Mei and Min Min showed just how flexible and resilient they were. They never complained and took everything in stride.
Hubby swears that the girls seem healthier whenever we are by the beach. I agree. There’s something special about the salt water, warm breeze and sunshine. I’m glad my girls overcame their fear of the beach and the sensory issues it caused them previously. I must admit, this year has been exceptionally jet-setter-ish for us. All those beach getaways, as if we were making up for all the past “autism years,” when vacations were non-existent. The “family trips” we did go on were usually autism-oriented, revolving around doctors’ consultations, doing blood draws, delivering pee and poop or buying supplements and GFCF ingredients. I guess this year we were making up for all the lost beach family vacations. But all our hard work and dedication are paying off. Mei and Min Min have a lifetime of exciting adventures and new experiences to look forward to.
Marissa Bagshaw is a mother of two children who are recovered from autism. Her blog Spectrum Mum in Malaysia is inspired by her daughters’ journey through autism. Marissa is the founder of KL Biomed, a support network for autism families doing biomedical intervention in Malaysia and neighbouring Asian countries. She is also a co founder of the Thinking Moms’ Revolution.