How autism is viewed in Singapore (spoiler alert: it’s bad!)
18 July 2024 | 1:06 pm

Content Warning: ableism, inspiration porn, murder of Autistic children

Consuming content about autism in most Singaporean media can be triggering for me.

The narrative is often either “Look how brave and inspiring these parents are for having to care for this poor tragic Autistic kid!”

Hugs and heartaches: Ageing parents stay strong despite challenges raising children with autism. Mr Goh consoling his autistic son Duane. Though Duane is 40, Mr Goh said it's like always having a little child at home. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan).

(Source: “Hugs and heartaches: Ageing parents stay strong despite challenges raising children with autism”, CNA, 28 Dec 2019)

“You have your expectations, your hopes, totally destroyed … On top of that, you have a big burden to take care of this person and help this child to do as well as possible,” she said.

(Source: “IN FOCUS: 'It's overwhelming' – the reality of raising a child with autism in Singapore”, CNA, 26 Aug 2023)

Or “You’d never guess that this person with a super special talent actually has autism! They didn’t let their autism stop them! See how they overcame their challenges!”

Jordan Er is a school prefect, a gold medallist in badminton doubles and basketball at the inter-school Play Inclusive games, and an aspiring chef who cooks meals for his family. You would never guess the 16-year-old was once shy with his limited social and academic skills holding him back from group activities. He used to only know how to travel to and from school.

(Source: “Aiming for more: How student is not letting autism stand in the way of being a competitive basketballer and chef”, The Straits Times, 30 Nov 2023)

Being a special needs youth does not stop Lee Jun Le from practising calligraphy. Or for that matter, completing his artworks in under a minute.

(Source: “Autism no barrier for teenager and his love for art and calligraphy”, The New Paper, 14 Aug 2023)

There’s also news about parents and caregivers killing their Autistic children, and it’s not uncommon to see people here sympathising with those parents/caregivers. It’s hard for me to witness that.

IN FOCUS: 'It's overwhelming' – the reality of raising a child with autism in Singapore. After a father was sentenced earlier this month for killing his two sons with autism, netizens expressed empathy towards his struggles as a caregiver. Parents, teachers and experts told CNA about available support for autism – and the need to make sure children and caregivers don't fall through the cracks.

(Source: “IN FOCUS: 'It's overwhelming' – the reality of raising a child with autism in Singapore”, CNA, 26 Aug 2023)

As far as I know, there’s no autism organisation in Singapore that is led by Autistic people. So the messaging and support that you often get from autism organisations here is nothing but patronising.

Eden Centre for Adults supports individuals with moderate to severe autism to maximise their potential to live dignified, meaningful and independent lives.

(Source: Autism Association (Singapore))

With a smile, Pastor David adds: “I admire their Innocence. Most of them don’t do things out of malice; they’re simply playful or anxious. They don’t lie or scheme; what you see is what you get. So it’s easy to get to know them and serve them.”

(Source: SAAC Chaplain Reverend David Teo: “People With Disability Also Have Abilities”, St. Andrew’s Autism Centre, 26 Apr 2024)

I had a really horrible experience with a local autism organisation, and I felt that I couldn’t trust any other autism organisation in Singapore after what I went through.

If I had the means and know-how to do so, I’d love to help set up an Autistic-led organisation here. Maybe someday in the future!

When your special interest turns out to be problematic
7 July 2024 | 4:00 pm

Content Warning: problematic creators, sexual assault allegations

Post by @autisticasfxxk
View on Threads

So, some fucked up shit came out about your special interest. It happened to me, and it fucking broke my heart. Here are some tips to help navigate this nightmare:

Take your time

It’s okay and perfectly understandable to have a grieving period. Your special interest was a big part of your life, and now it’s tainted. That shit hurts.

Allow yourself to feel all the feels: anger, betrayal, sadness… whatever comes up. Process this at your own pace, whether it takes a month, a couple of months, or over a year.

Reflect on the good

Make a list of all the valuable things this special interest has brought to your life. Maybe it helped you through tough times, connected you with friends, or taught you something new. These experiences and memories are still valid, even if the source is problematic.

It’s also okay if you can’t find any positives right now. It might take time before you can look back without feeling hurt. That’s understandable. Be patient with yourself.

To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you… if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred.

Daniel Radcliffe

Separate the art from the artist?

It’s up to you to decide if you want to continue engaging with this special interest. Some people can separate the art from the artist, others can’t.

It’s also okay to change your mind over time. You might need distance now but feel comfortable engaging with the work later, or vice versa. Your feelings may evolve, and that’s perfectly normal.

If you choose to stay engaged, consider buying second-hand or sailing the high seas (AKA piracy) to avoid financially supporting the creator.

You could also take a transgressive approach: create fan works that challenge the problematic aspects or feature themes the creator would hate, or support small businesses and artists making unofficial merch.

Explore new interests

When you’re ready, have fun discovering new interests. Doing so can be a healing process in itself.

You can use this opportunity to seek out diverse (women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and other marginalised voices) and lesser-known creators.

Who knows? You might stumble upon your next special interest. (I know I did. I found Rage Against the Machine!)

Finding power through telling my own stories
1 July 2024 | 4:04 pm

Growing up as a young girl who didn’t speak, people tended to make a lot of assumptions about me: that I had no opinions, that I couldn’t understand what was happening around me, that I was just a meek and innocent girl, that I couldn’t hang out with my peers (because they’d just be a bad influence or take advantage of me) and should just be with my parents, that I couldn’t be independent, that I led a pitiful life.

These ideas people had of me were inaccurate and limiting. I never felt seen in all my complexity (that was usually afforded to my non-disabled peers).

As an impressionable kid, I thought I couldn’t trust my own self-perception and that others had a more accurate view of me. I felt that I had no choice but to let their limiting narratives define me.

A creative writing teacher, who I got along really well with, introduced me to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.” In this talk, Adichie points out the impact of having a single story define a marginalised group:

So that is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.

It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power… Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.

The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.

The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.

These insights helped me realise that the assumptions people made about me were part of a “single story” narrative. They only saw one aspect of me and allowed it to define my entire being. Adichie’s words also helped me understand the transformative power of telling my own stories.

By sharing my stories through Autistic As Fxxk, I reclaim control over my own narrative and challenge the single story others may have about me. My stories are my power, and through them, I’m able to assert my humanity and my individuality.

I hope to inspire others to share their own stories and recognise the power in doing so, especially those of us whose lived experiences aren’t usually heard (Autistics who have higher support needs, are non-speaking, minimally-speaking, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, etc.). All our stories deserve to be told.

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