Eva Wong Nava: Why I Believe In A More Open And Inclusive World

Eva Wong Nava, author of Open: A Boy's Wayang Adventure, shares how her journey in advocating for a more open and inclusive world started with the birth of her first child.

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I wasn’t aware of autism until I had my first child whom I named after the heroine of an international best-seller I was reading when pregnant. This daughter of mine—whose name is also inspired by the Greek philosopher Sophocles—was quiet, shy and introverted, preferring to play solitaire to interacting with peers. She obsessed about dinosaurs and could name every one by the time she was two. She had a habit of leaving blonde parcels under her pillow like gifts for me to discover each morning when making the bed. Thankfully, this hair-pulling fascination soon ended.

Afternoon naps ceased at 18 months. A demon named Hyperactivity possessed her each evening making her twirl, jump, turn and twist until she collapsed from exhaustion. By that time,  I’d be as exhausted too and we’d both fall asleep. The house would descend into a peaceful slumber too only to be awakened in the middle of the night when the little one had had enough shut-eye. Luckily, this erratic sleep pattern gave way to deeper and restful sleep as she grew older.

At kindergarten, she made one friend and stuck to him. They built tents and cubbies in which they were often found on their backs, joined like Siamese twins at their crowns. They played together separately, each one in their own worlds, giggling and laughing in glee with nobody in particular. This friend’s mother, Agnes, and I became best friends connected by our children’s friendships. Agnes has another son, Chris, who was eight years old when I met him. He is non-verbal, deaf and has other genetic conditions which cause severe health issues. Autism entered my world in this manner. Observing Chris, I started to wonder if my daughter was on the spectrum too.

The years tumbled away and our neurotypical kids entered elementary school. The little Sophocles found new friends that she could count on one hand and she stuck to them. I stopped wondering if she was autistic as her teachers didn’t flag a concern. Chris got placed in a school where there were other kids like him. Agnes and I continued to bond over parenting issues and the love and acceptance we have for our children.

My second daughter arrived in a warm toasty heap on a hot summer’s day. This child is different from her sister in many ways. And her eight-year-old sister loved her in so many ways. Their bond is water-tight; the little Sophocles protects this toasty bundle with her life.

The little Sophocles is now twenty. She has all the typical problems a twenty-year-old at university has—she fell in love, experienced her first break-up and worries over deadlines. The toasty bundle is now a middle-grader and has all the typical problems a tweeny has—obsessing about her social media accounts and instagramming live videos 3 times a day. Chris is now 25 and lives in a home with another boy on the spectrum; they are cared for by their carer daily.

In my book Open: A Boy's Wayang Adventure, the characters, although based on the film The Wayang Kids, were written with the characteristics of what I’d observed in the friends that the little Sophocles made at school and of some children around Chris in the park. I wanted to give readers a sense of what it’s like for someone who finds making friends challenging and to highlight the emotions that children—neurotypical and autistic—go through when faced with unkindness and rejection.

It’s important to remind ourselves that every child matters no matter what. That’s what made me decide on #OpenEveryChildMatters as the hashtag for the book, and I hope the book will help to open doors for every child in people’s heart.

About the author

Eva Wong Nava, author of Open: A Boy's Wayang Journey

Eva Wong Nava is the author of Open: A Boy’s Wayang Adventure which follows the inner voice of Open, a 10-year-old boy on the autism spectrum, in his daily life and in school.

Her children’s book encourages young readers to be more compassionate to people on the Autism Spectrum.  Eva is also an Art Historian, Educator and Writer. She writes flash fiction and founded CarpeArte Journal where she publishes her fiction and ramblings of the art sort while leaving room for others to do the same. Her flash fiction has appeared in various places and her art writing is published online and in magazines. Eva lives between two worlds, literally and physically, and is based in a small city-state not far from the equator. When not doing anything else, she reads copiously and writes voraciously, always wishing there were more hours in the day to do more with the written word.

Eva also blogs at https://evawongnava.com/.