She’s 44 years old and she’s a TikTok star.

Well, not her exactly.

Nurul Indriati posts videos of her 19-year-old son Danish weekly but she’s not your usual TikTok influencer who uses their children for social media clout.

She’s doing it to raise awareness.

You see, Danish has autism. And Indriati, or Indrie for short, wants to share their story of his living with the mental condition.

But there’s more.

“On top of being diagnosed with high-functioning autism, Danish also has a tumour on his pineal gland. It’s a rare type of brain cancer that not many people know about. It’s in remission now but he even went through a relapse before we got here,” Indrie tells The Pride.

“I just wish to bring awareness about both autism and cancer for others who may be suffering in silence. I’d like to be a source of information to those who don’t know how and where to find help.”

@indrieyatie Happy for him 🥰🥰🥰 he was anxious and so do I. He planned it 1 week before. Printed out his invitations. So I can imagine how hopeful he was. I mentally prepared him too shd no one turns up. Alhamdulillah….his 2 classmates with such big heart came for Eid….once again thank u boys! ❤️ #socialechallenges #friendswithautism #autismandfriends #socialskills #keeptrying #dontgiveup #growingup #autismteen ♬ original sound – ADMT

Recently, during Hari Raya, one of her videos of Danish, which is short for Muhammad Danish Naufal Shah, went viral, with more than 620,000 views and 88,000 likes. It was just a short 16-second clip but in it, Indrie shared a heartwarming story about how Danish’s classmates came over during Hari Raya to see her son.

Going viral was a pleasant surprise, seeing which Indrie only started posting on TikTok six months ago.

“I had friends messaging me ‘Hey! Your TikTok appeared on news sites everywhere!’” says the stay-at-home mum with a laugh.

Dealing with challenges at home

(From far left) Nadhilah, Yatim, Danish, Indrie, Daiyan, Nabihah and Danial. Image source: Nurul Indriati

But it’s not always fun and laughter at home.

Not only is Indrie a caregiver for Danish, but she raised her five children – Danish is the middle child – without sending them to a childcare centre.

Indrie stays at home to care for the kids while her husband, Mohamed Yatim, 52, is a senior IT consultant.

Raising her children without childcare wasn’t her biggest challenge though, it was when Danish got hospitalised with cancer at age 8 that life started taking a toll.

Her four oldest children, Nurul Nabihah, 21, Nurul Nadhilah, 20, Danish, 19, and Muhammad Danial Nabil Shah, 18, have just a one-year gap between them (her youngest son, Muhammad Daiyan Nufail Shah is 7).

Indrie remembers how she had to care for Danial, who was just 7 when Danish was hospitalised.

“I had to talk to the nurse, the doctor, go through all those long processes just to bring my youngest in because Danish’s ward only allowed one visitor at a time,” she recounts.

“It was these difficult processes I had to deal with on top of Danish’s meltdowns, tantrums and things like getting him to cooperate with treatment because he was afraid of needles… Times were very tough.”

During that time, her relatives helped by looking after Nabihah and Nadhilah but they lived all over Singapore, which made it even more inconvenient for Indrie to pick them up.

Despite all that, Indrie pulled through with good time management.

Now that most of her children are grown up, family time together usually means weekend outings. It means that Indrie has a bit more time now – for TikTok!

@indrieyatie This place is awesome! Good 1 hr of ATV ride @atv park johor ! From young we exposed Danish to numerous outdoors activities to build his confidence, courage, overcome sensory issues and motorskills. And of course social interactions! #atvride #autismactivities #outdoorfun #autismtiktok #autismphysicalactivities #socialinteraction #confidenceboost #motorskillsactivities ♬ Devil Inside Me – Nor King

However, Indrie says that Danish’s siblings don’t interact that much with him right now.

“They have a hard time understanding Danish and his temper,” Indrie explains.

Indrie recounts an incident where Danish just had his treatment in 2019, and his hormones were “haywire”, she says.

Danish lost his temper at Danial and threw his belongings, including a laptop, and flipped his bed over. That led to a strained relationship which is still healing.

But the loving mother is still hopeful that the siblings will get along.

“I really hope they start opening up to one another, and that this is just a phase.”

Indrie looks out for small improvements between the siblings, like when she sees Nabihah and Nadhilah bringing Danish more into their conversations and sharing jokes with one another.

Another thing that she is grateful for is that Danish’s condition is stable, and he doesn’t need to go for treatment as his cancer is now in remission.

Coping with bullying

@indrieyatie Danish graduated from Pathlight school to ITE College. It had been a rough start but all is well now when we work closely with the school to ensure his safety when comes to bullying. Everyday is a new day…always check on your school going child. #specialschools #vocationalschool #autismacceptance #autismawareness #supportautisticfamilies #stopbullying #understandingautism❤ ♬ Pretty song that imaged a sleeping baby – Azuline

Nevertheless, Danish still has trouble with social skills. He can’t quite grasp social cues like understanding sarcasm or when to join a conversation without interrupting people.

Since he is high-functioning and speaks well, relatives often comment that Danish “doesn’t seem like he has autism”.

Danish’s education journey hasn’t been smooth either: He started in a neighbourhood primary school, moved to an international school at 11, and in 2019, he transferred to autism-focused Pathlight School at 15.

He graduated from Pathlight in 2022 and is now studying precision engineering at ITE College Central because Indrie wants him to be “exposed to the public and not shelter him in a bubble”.

Going back to mainstream education, he can learn to grasp social cues better, Indrie hopes.

But this means he has had to deal with verbal bullying and teasing. It was a rough start during orientation week at his new school this year, says Indrie.

“People found Danish weird and mocked or picked on him. It was heartbreaking.”

Even though Danish has had to deal with this for most of his childhood, it still affects him. When it occurs, Danish has angry outbursts, which hinders not only his own learning but affects other students around him as well.

In the second week of ITE, Indrie visited his teachers to explain Danish’s condition and his triggers.

On their part, Indrie teaches Danish how to deal with such situations, such as learning to ignore bullies or teasing.

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But it doesn’t always work, adds Danish, who joined our conversation halfway.

“Ignoring them didn’t work because they wouldn’t stop. Even after telling my teachers or my therapist about it at (one of the schools), it didn’t do much. All the therapist did was tell them to stop,” he adds.

So why send him to a mainstream school then?

There’s only so much that special-needs teachers can do, explains Indrie, at some point, he needs to learn social norms and social skills.

“Bullying or not, that’s how we teach him to be tough,” Indrie says.

To help Danish cope, he has been seeing the same therapist at the Child Guidance Clinic at IMH for the past 10 years.

“Danish’s therapist allows him to seek help and learn techniques to overcome whatever problem he is facing at that moment,” says Indrie.

Things have now gotten better for Danish, and after understanding about his situation, his new classmates have become more inclusive.

Danish also has a “calming” room at his new school to take refuge during breaks.

@indrieyatie Social skills challenges can trigger anger outbursts in autism. When you’re trying to fit in and have decent friendship in teenagehood, sadly we cant expect everyone to understand the struggles in autism. Will just have to manage and teach him how to cope. #autismandfriendship #autismandfriends #angermanagement #angerissues #socialskills #teenagelife ♬ original sound – Jamal Junior2

Making friends with Danish

Meeting Danish during my interview with Indrie is an interesting experience. It quickly feels like talking to an old friend.

I ask if Danish had close friends, as that would help him cope in school.

“I don’t really have a clique of friends, but I’m not sad!” Danish exclaims. “I’m introverted, so I’m totally okay with how things are.”

So what happened really in that viral TikTok video?

Indrie confesses that Danish had wanted to invite his classmates to their house in 2022, inspired by his sister who always had her friends over for Hari Raya.

He was ready, but Indrie wasn’t, she says. She was afraid of judgement from his friends’ parents and that he’d get disappointed if they didn’t turn up.

Danish on the other hand, was confident that his classmates would accept his invitation, so Indrie decided to take a leap of faith. Danish even designed invitation cards himself!

In the end, two of his classmates turned up and the three boys had a great time, smiles Indrie.

@indrieyatie The struggle of life is one of our greatest blessings. It makes us patient, sensitive, and Godlike. It teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it – Arnold Scwhwarzenegger #autismawareness #braincancer #braintumorawareness #pinealglandtumor #gfcfdiet #cancerdiet #bioresonancetherapy #paediatricbraincancer #remission #myanaksyurga #anaksoleh #anakautism #lifeishard #allahuakhbar #makeawish #childrencancerfoundation #braintumoursociety #younglivingsingapore ♬ Bintang di Surga – Noah

Ending our conversation, I ask Indrie and Danish what lessons they want to share with others.

Indrie wants to remind caregivers like her about the importance of patience and compassion when caring for people with autism or those with cancer.

To cater to their needs, caregivers need to educate themselves as much as possible about their conditions, she says.

You also need to be creative in communicating with them and helping them cope. For example, Indrie uses essential oils to help Danish cope with his meltdowns, as it seems that this alternative practice works for him.

If you want to find out more about Indrie and Danish, you can follow them on TikTok.

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