Sebastien, now 26, has spent the past six years living independently in Bali. His mother, Ms. Choo Kah Ying, despite residing in Singapore, made a decision to let her non-verbal autistic son thrive in this tropical paradise. It has been the best thing she’s ever done for herself and Sebastien. And we are here for our readers to understand why this mom decided to do so. Sebastien has been living in Bali for 6 years with carers.
Meet Sebastien, a lovely soul who has been embracing Bali’s enchanting magic for six years. At the tender age of 26, this non-verbal autistic young man has discovered the beauty of living independently, surrounded by devoted caregivers. His beloved mother Ms. Choo Kah Ying, along with her partner, calls Singapore home, but their unwavering love and unyielding belief in Sebastien’s potential have led them to make an extraordinary choice.
In describing Sebastien’s experience as a non-verbal autistic individual, Ms. Choo, who has shared her insights through her published works, emphasizes his unique communication challenges. According to her, Sebastien lacks the ability to converse, connect, and relate to others in a conventional manner. This poses significant hurdles for him in terms of establishing connections and fitting into mainstream society, which often has specific requirements for social interaction.
“It was possibly the most difficult decision of my life as a mother and as a human being to move someone like my son,” mother told. Ms. Choo discovered a noticeable transformation in Sebastien when he was exposed to the calming influence of nature.
Recognizing the importance of his independence, she made the decision to create an environment where he could thrive. Reflecting on her choice, Ms. Choo expressed, “If I stayed with him, every time things went wrong, he would always come running towards me, but with the carers (in Bali) … he got to be this young man.” At that time, Sebastien had already achieved a level of independence where he could cook, fold clothes, and take care of himself.
During a family holiday on a serene Indonesian island in 2012, Ms. Choo discovered that Sebastien found solace in nature. Seeing him become calm and still by the seaside sparked her imagination of him living independently in a village connected to the natural world. Despite initial doubts from loved ones, Ms. Choo persisted in her search for affordable housing and caregivers. When Sebastien reached the age of 20, Ms. Choo finally made her vision a reality by sending him to live in a village in Bali.
The journey, however, has been filled with challenges. Initially, Ms. Choo traveled back and forth between Singapore and Bali every two weeks as she struggled to fully trust the new arrangement. To ensure Sebastien’s safety, the first villa he lived in was equipped with surveillance cameras. Finding reliable caregivers proved to be a significant hurdle. Ms. Choo acknowledged the difficulty in finding suitable individuals to support her son.
Over the years, there have been changes in the caregiver team, with only one carer remaining constant. Unfortunately, some of the caregivers who came and went did not treat Sebastien well. Despite these obstacles, Ms. Choo shared that Sebastien has experienced healing and personal growth throughout his time in Bali. The changes in Sebastien, according to Ms. Choo, may not align with society’s expectations.
However, she has chosen to suspend those expectations and view him in a different light. Rather than expecting him to conform to typical behavior and social norms, she accepts him for who he is. Ms. Choo now focuses on educating others about autism and promoting understanding and acceptance without imposing societal standards on individuals like Sebastien. “We don’t expect him to speak in sentences. We (don’t) expect him to always greet us or say something,” mother got candid.
Ms. Choo’s journey with her son Sebastien highlights the challenges experienced by families living with autism. Her decision to create an environment where Sebastien could thrive, even if it meant distance and unconventional choices, demonstrates a deep love and commitment to his well-being.