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When Singapore-based TikToker Andreana Tay uploaded a video of her sister angling to try her food on the platform, she was not expecting to go viral.
In the video, her sister, who has autism, made sounds and gestures to Andreana to indicate that she’d like some of whatever she was having.
As notifications from the app began to pour in, Andreana was afraid to open them, as she was afraid that people would be criticising her for uploading what she thought was just an adorable video of their daily life together.
She recounted this incident to hosts Johnathan Chua, Ryan Tan, Kelvin Tan (better known as Mayiduo) and Charlene Huang in an episode of the Mandarin podcast R U OKAY!? 你OK吗.
Since then, Andreana has been posting regularly about the siblings’ daily adventures.
Can persons with autism consent to being filmed?
Host Mayiduo asked Andreana if her sister had agreed to being featured in the videos, to which Andreana admitted that there was a “grey area”.
She revealed that her sister is mostly non-verbal, but she would communicate disapproval with a sound of annoyance, or get angry and walk away.
When that happens, Andreana says, she would stop filming.
Andreana also says that recording Audrey on video is also used as an educational tool.
For example, she would film Audrey when she is having a tantrum and throwing and breaking things.
The recording would be played for her, and they would then explain that these actions are wrong.
Audrey would communicate her remorse by hugging or kissing Andreana.
I’m just glad that the people around us that witness the breakdown didn’t film us or said anything unnecessary which I am very thankful for. Just wanna apologise to those who felt uncomfortable witnessing it 🙏🙏🙏#autismawareness #autism #autismacceptance #autisticwomensg #autismsg #autisticsibling
These videos, Andreana clarifies, are private and would not be uploaded on a public platform.
Mayiduo also revealed that he had seen comments accusing Andreana of using Audrey for traffic, while Charlene asked if she had considered not filming her sister anymore.
To this, Andreana admitted that she had considered it, but reasoned that whether or not she continued featuring Audrey, people would still have something to say.
She then decided to stop caring and just “live [her] life”.
Accusations of exploitation
However, Andreana also shared that she had been feeling burnt out because of the negative comments she had received.
Ryan advised her not to read these comments, but Andreana said that because of her day job as a social media manager, reading the comments has become an occupational hazard.
She felt that she had explained her actions many times, but they still did not understand where she was coming from.
Andreana also revealed that most of these comments on her videos were made by non-Singaporeans, adding that Singapore only made up about 30% of her viewer demographic.
She identified most of these comments on accusing her of exploiting her sister and using her to make money as coming from Americans.
This, she says, was likely due to news reports that had exposed family members for using their sick relatives to raise funds, but actually taking the money to buy luxury products for themselves.
Hence, she said that she could understand where they were coming from, but felt that they shouldn’t paint everyone with the same brush.
Growing up with Audrey
In the podcast, Andreana also got real about some of the struggles growing up with Audrey in the picture.
The siblings have a nine-year age gap.
She revealed that her parents were afraid to face the reality of Audrey’s condition at first, and refused to seek out a diagnosis.
In fact, for a period of time, her father blamed her mother for the situation, and even theorised that it might been a vaccine taken during the pregnancy that had caused Audrey’s autism.
Andreana confessed that she too blamed her mother when she was in the early years of secondary school, as she had to take care of her sibling after school, while her friends were off having fun.
Her parents, who ran an eatery, were too busy to take care of them.
Should parents have another kid to take care of their special needs child?
In the episode, Charlene also revealed that she would soon be taking her son for an assessment, as she suspected that he might have special needs.
She also said that her husband raised the idea of having another child to care for her son in future, should the diagnosis turn out positive, a suggestion that she disagreed with.
The other podcast members also reacted with disapproval at the idea.
Andreana then talked about the importance of forward planning in terms of finances and nominating a caregiver for their child.
This is a topic that Andreana had also addressed in an earlier TikTok video.
Hi if you are seeing this, please note that you will not be alone in this journey. I, myself also faces the same situation as you and till date I am still learning to cope with the stress and feelings towards being the one responsible for my autistic sister’s future. – If you have a sibling like me, have a chat with them, share about what you can/ cannot do for your sibling with disability and see if you can help one another instead of pushing it around. This really takes time to understand, which you REALLY need to have the patience for it. – Many people ASSUMED that I got it all covered and I know what I am doing, truth be told I am still figuring out. – Parents plays a huge part in this, and I still stand where I believe that they should be the one responsible for them and it SHOULD be a collaborative effort instead of “YOU SHOULD BE THE ONE taking care of them” in the future. – What are your thoughts? #autismsg #autismawareness #autisticsibling #autisticwomen #autistictiktok #vlogs2023
Charlene also mentioned that in the few cases that she had seen, the plan was always for the child to be taken care of by their siblings after their parents had passed.
However, she felt that it “doesn’t make sense” for another child to be born with a “mission”.
On the other hand, Johnathan disagreed, saying that the arrangement does make sense, though it could also be seen as “selfish”.
Andreana agreed, further explaining that if the parents had made arrangements for the care of their special needs child, it would relieve some of the pressure on their siblings.
Mayiduo also spoke about the risks of having another child for this purpose, saying that there was a chance that the next child could also have special needs.
He also said that there was no guaranteeing the personality of the other child, and whether they would be willing to take on this responsibility.
Dating and future plans
Andreana revealed that she was not intending to have children, and would dedicate herself to taking care of her sister instead.
Her current partner and herself are waiting for their four-room Build-To-Order (BTO) flat.
He has consented to having Audrey live with them in future, but requested for his own room.
This space would be somewhere to relax and unwind after a day of work, before having the energy to help Andreana out with her sister.
This, Andreana feels, is a fair request.
However, dating life hasn’t always been smooth for Andreana, who once revealed that a date had told her: “I can see a future with you, but I can’t see one with you and your sister.”
In the episode, she also recounted a particularly bad break-up where her ex had made nasty comments about her and her sister after she initiated the split.
In a recent TikTok video, Andreana also spoke about how a date once asked her why her parents had not aborted Audrey when they could, something which she called a “red flag”.
You can watch the full episode here:
Top image via R U OKAY!? 你OK吗/YouTube and Andreana Tay’s Instagram.
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