One Estate Solutions started out helping families with special needs children to better their lives and to help them plan for a future with a child who is more dependent on them. Their inspiring work with these families led them to create 'Life’s Missing Manual for Families with Autistic Children', a book that helps families with Autistic children answer difficult questions. STYLEGUIDE sits down with Albert Lau, one of the founders of this company, to find out more about his journey.
How did you guys end up specialising in Special Needs Planning?
It was completely accidental.
It all happened when one of our team members chanced upon a family who had member with special needs.
It was our first case and it was through this that we realised that having someone with special needs was a very complex issue. The three main issues families faced were this:
Number 1: Dealing with a person with special needs requires a lot of money. Going purely on savings isn't enough. So families need to tap on other financial resources.
Number 2: Even with all these financial resources, there is the issue of who is going to manage the money for their kids when the parents are not around.
Number 3: Family members and caretakers spend all their time taking care of their child with special needs but they have no time to spend on themselves.
This is where our team came in. We spent six to eight months working very closely with this family to help them resolve some of their issues.
Throughout this process we realised that they are not the only ones facing some of these issues.
We got a chance to work with lawyers, doctors, psychologists, trust companies, and to partner with people who serve autistic families. We learnt a lot in the process. This is why the solutions we provided was very helpful for them.
As a result, we were able to put together a special plan and amassed a total of 1.6 million in funding for a family with a special needs member.
While doing so, we ensured that families had money for themselves as well.
We also taught them how to manage the money when they are not around to take care of their child through the right channels.
They were very impressed with the work we did for them and they started to refer more families with special need children to us.
Slowly, we became the go-to company for special needs families.
What inspired you to start Life’s Missing Manual for Families with Autistic Children?
As we help more and more families, they started asking questions that we couldn’t answer.
For example: Is TCM useful for kids with Autism? When Autistic children violate the law, will the courts be more lenient towards them? Or would they be given special treatment? Can Autistic children travel overseas?
We really wanted to help them.
Hence, we started going to our contacts who are doctors, tuition teachers, psychologists, hypnotherapists and more for some of these answers.
We started to get the answers and we realised that there are other families who also have the same questions.
We figured why not put all the answers together and put it in one place and give them access to it because there’s no such manual in Singapore right now.
That’s how ‘Life’s Missing Manual for Families with Autistic Children’ came about.
I’m very happy to say that we have 18 contributors right now. They not only contribute their knowledge but when they hear that we are going to sponsor the book, they also want to sponsor us.
So, this book is fully self-funded. All we want is to make sure that at least 20,000 families in Singapore get a copy of this book so they have access to this information.
Their life is tough enough, we don’t want to make their life tougher. We know this book is really going to help them.
What were some of the biggest challenges that you faced along this journey?
We faced two challenges mainly.
One of the challenges we faced was that during the initial phase of One Estate Solutions (OES), special needs planning was a very new thing and many people didn't have any knowledge about what it was about.
Hence, some of these people thought of it as a scam.
The other challenge was the fact that we dont charge families for the services we provide.
Not many financial advisors would be willing to spend their time helping these families to go through the special needs planning process, therefore making it hard for us to find like-minded people to join our team.
What are the most common mistakes that families with autistic children make and what can they do about it?
The most common mistake that families with autistic children make is not getting their child properly diagnosed even if they suspect that something is amiss with them.
Most of the time, parents take the wait-and-see approach or they simply think that the child will “grow out of” their problems when they are older.
Some of the symptoms that parents tend to overlook are when the baby or toddler doesn’t respond to his or her name, avoids eye contact or the sound of a familiar voice or makes noises to get your attention.
These families also seek early intervention late.
All therapists have something to say in common – seek early intensive intervention as soon as possible so that the child’s behaviour can be corrected or rewired.
While their behaviour can be corrected at a later age, when the child receives treatment earlier, the therapy’s success rate will also be much higher and quicker. One of our contributors, Liyuan from Autism Step mentioned this during the interview.
A diagnosis in a government hospital can take up to one year. This is not really a mistake but if the parents can afford to send their children to a private hospital for a confirmed diagnosis, they should do so as it will cut down on the waiting time.
These parents also often isolate themselves because they are guilty or ashamed of their child. Quite on the contrary, they should surround themselves with friends whom they trust and where they can be open about their feelings.
Can you tell us 3 things that most people do not know about families with autistic children?
It’s never the parents’ fault that their child has autism.
The fact is, even till today, research has not shown what causes Autism. Autism happens to a child because the brain is wired differently from normal children.
Caring for a child with Autism should never be their sibling's lifelong responsibility. Yes, they can help their parents from time to time but whatever happens to the child should never be on them.
In fact, there are organisations that offer services to help care for the child and meet their financial, social and physical needs.
It’s more important than ever for families to have open discussions with the people around them.
Breaking the news that their child has autism is difficult enough. They continue to have to make difficult decisions their entire lives - which therapies to go for, is there enough money?
Without having an open discussion with everyone involved and close friends to confide in, issues may get worse and may not be resolved.
What more can be done to help?
Parents with autistic children need all the help and support they can get from the people around them. Especially emotional support.
They need acceptance from people and the community around them.
Friends can help families with an autistic child by just being there or by doing little things for them like picking up the milk for example.
On a personal side, what motivates and keeps you going?
What motivates me and my team would really be when we are working with each special needs family with the special need planning process and we are able to help them to solve most, if not all their major problems.
The smiles on the faces of these parents at the end of it gives us tremendous satisfaction, especially when they pat us on our backs and tell us how much we have lessen their load and can focus on their children even more.
Who is a role model that you look up to and really admire?
A respectable figure I look up to would be The Rock – Dwayne Johnson.
His philanthropic nature is admirable as he gives to charitable organisations and goes out of his way to help those in need.
An example of this would be in 2017 where he dressed up as “Dwanta Claus” and gave out wish list gifts to children in need.
His humbleness and wham-bam-pow attitude towards life is exceptionally motivational.
What is one change you will like to see in the world today?
We hope to promote an inclusive environment in our society where people celebrate diversity.
Personally for us, we want all parents to have the peace of mind and all family members to be well taken care of.
Parents do not necessarily need to compromise on their lifestyle or expenses to provide their special needs child with a better tomorrow
What are your future plans?
As we know, special needs covers many other conditions, such as Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual Disablement and more.
'Life’s Missing Manual for Families with Autistic Children' is our first step.
We will have second, third and more edition of this book that covers the various other conditions.
We are planning to promote these books in other regions as well like in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and more.
Our hope is to reach out to more countries, so more families with special needs children can benefit from our book.
If you have friends or relatives that have a autistic children, please share the following link with them so that they can register and receive a copy of the book for free. http://lifemissingmanual.com/.
If you would like to make a donation or support us, so that more people can receive a copy of the book, you can contact us at +65 9049 2455.
Any amount is welcome!