I shall be chatting with Paul Micallef on 18 October about Autism-Friendly Learning Environment, how to encourage learning from within the autistic paradigm, rather than by correction and coercion to comply with neuronormative channels.
Autism Explained Online Summit is a week-long online summit featuring autistic and non-autistic professionals in the field, providing insights and advice to parents on different themes. The line-up of speakers includes Temple Grandin, Peter Vermeulen, Yenn Purkis, Daniel Giles, Andrew Whitehouse, Shadia Hancock, Wenn Lawson, Tom Tutton, Chris Varney, Emma Goodall, Jac den Houting, Chris Bonnello and many more presenting eclectic viewpoints, all in the same space!
It has taken me a long time to finally write about my appearance in the last episode of the series on Autism, “Uniquely Me – Episode 6“, which aired on MediaCorp’s Chinese Channel 8 , on 11 June 2019.
I’m honoured to be paired with Jun Wei, a fellow musician, in this feature. I thank director Bee Har Koah of Threesixzero films for her sensitive handling of the subject. It was a pleasure to work with her, and she did not disappoint my trust in her artistic integrity. My greatest fear each time I consent to be featured in public media of any kind is the twisted portrayal of “inspirational porn”, sensationalism and evocations of a grand pity-party. It did not happen in this series, and I felt the episode unfolded in a practical, unemotional way, offering concrete real-life glimpses into our lives.
I appreciate that the episode highlighted our artistry and our passion for music and art, rather than focusing on “overcoming the odds”. It did not create heroes out of us, but rather presented a human side to our parallel autistic embodiment.
I also love the way director Bee Har included Lucy in such a sensitive way. Lucy is truly my muse, closest companion, Canine Angel and lastly, my trained assistance dog. She has traversed with me, always watchful, always faithful, across seven years of adventure, tumultuous changes, unexpected achievement and inspired my concept and practice of Clement Space. I owe her my very life, I wouldn’t be where I am were it not for her steadfast and cogent presence.
Many have asked me whether I have directly benefitted (financially or career-wise) from all the exposure in the media. My answer is a definitive no. I have not received any grand offer of financial gain, fabulous professional engagements or that elusive thing that autistics all desire – a decent job commensurate with our skills and qualifications. Quite the opposite, in fact. I have said often that I find it stressful and anxiety-laden to be interviewed or featured this way. I am revealing intimate parts of my life, leaving myself open to criticism and gawking, and I never know if or when the journalist or feature director will be faithful to my guidelines and demands for accuracy and respectful portrayal. Thus far, I have been lucky to a great extent – I have managed to avoid being held up as “inspirational”, and the media coverage has been largely respectful according to my own terms. But why do I even do this, if it brings so much discomfort? My reasons are simple. This is my contribution to my autistic community, my way of advocating for respect, equity and understanding, presenting the human side of my autism, laying bare my own fragility for a chance that someone somewhere may be blessed by my derring-do, comforted by my facing life challenges with honesty, or persuaded by my courage to step forward into the harsh, unforgiving limelight.
We are all autistic, we share a common neurological function, we face similar challenges, yet we are all uniquely different individuals in a richly textured existence. Listen to us, learn from us, respect our narratives, and embrace us as part of the fabric of human existence.
An autistic friend recently supplied me with this link, a tongue-in-cheek “New Age Bullshit Generator“, which generates a slew of pseudoscientific propositions for any kind of purpose you wish to apply it to. We were discussing the topic of snake-oil and pseudoscience, and its prevalence in what I call The Grand Autism Circus.
On the one hand, the New Age Bullshit Generator is an exercise of ironic humour (and very clever programming), but one should not ignore the presence of a grave, sombre message that lies beneath. Pseudoscience permeates the autism world, which is a fierce and aggressive circus that does not exist in the realm of any other disability in today’s context.
We are now in the 21st century, yet snake-oil cures still abound and vigorously thrive in the autism world. From MMS / CD Water (which is basically bleach solution), ASEA (saline mixture), to Chelation and…
Autistic pursuits and objects of passion: lavish indulgence or crucial intervention?
Autism advocacy can be devastating savagery to the Autistic Artist’s soul. Relentless and aggressive, the crass normative dominance chaffing against autistic fragility, valiantly struggling to be heard amidst Daedalian gyrations, asphyxiating gas-lighting and gelid silence, is crippling.
The Artist needs to recover Sense of Soul, that Clement Space within which emanates forth, once revived and strengthened, as vibrant virtuosity and vitality. Spiritual Sustenance.
And this Autistic Artist has been slowly mending, resuscitating, rearranging, invigorating and awakening Clement Space, Autistic Joy.
An ongoing exercise that is critical to Beingness, that marks the difference between bleak existence and dynamic Life.
This morning, I unearthed an important Object that performs a key role in this unfolding and unpacking. It is non-functional in the mundane utilitarian sense – a pair of old Ferragamo wedge shoes transformed with rocks, cheap plastic baubles and paint. It cannot be worn, it does not fit into the category of High Art, whatever that is spun out to mean, it is not aesthetically pleasing in a general sense, and it has no monetary value. Yet, it is functional because it serves a completely different purpose, sublime yet forcefully tangible to the ones who are able to perceive its potency. For this Autistic Artist, who created this object-thing, it and the act of bringing it out of its storage space, of un-hiding, un-masking, marks another hidden, intimate junction of reflection and compulsion towards healing and growth.
When interacting with an autistic person, it is best to speak with clarity, and be honest. Blunt honesty is valued in our autistic social system. We prize the truth, and we admire those with the courage to speak it and stand by it. Cards on table, nothing hidden.
If you think Gas Lighting is insidious, wait till you are caught in the midst of ‘Asian-style’ subterfuge. You’d be made to doubt your own name after awhile, and discredited using your autism diagnosis, with its plethora of ‘deficits,’ against you.
There is an old Cantonese saying that aptly describes the kind of spurious babbling that usually follows when petty trickery is uncovered and the truth is laid bare as a baby’s bottom on a damp monsoon day:
“Fallen flat on your face and still trying to claim you were just collecting sand.”
Autistic people get that ‘sand box’ sophism all the time from the neuronormative, and we are expected – demanded – to accept it. Or be damned. But that is just the lower-level type of social gyrating, the kind that people with big hearts and large vision may choose to just laugh off.
Pardon me, please? Could you please kindly say that again?
Bitte wiederholen Sie?
Ah, mais non. There is a higher-order that is far more treacherous, the exquisitely Machiavellian type reserved for the Grand Masters of Perfidy.
臥虎藏龍 – The Crouching Tigers and Hidden Dragons are the highest order of complex social-political manoeuvrings that utterly confound Autistic Honesty. Next to these, we are well and truly “socially impaired”.
What should the Exhausted Autistic Entity do in such situations? There may be many suggestions and tactics advised by wiser souls than I. For me, it is time to just walk away – redirect and go along my way with my soul still intact. Leave the Magnificent Ostentatious Stage of Good Deeding. My old friends Artaud and Wagner are no match for these Maestros. We shall attend to lesser matters of Autistic Joy and Autistic Beauty.
Clement Space awaits, and there is Lucy, silently watching and anticipating with her eyes of pulchritude.
In an ugly world, attempting Empowerment of Beauty can be a dreadful struggle, one which goes against the fundamental nature of Beauty itself. But we need to keep going, believing, hoping, lest darkness engulfs & destroys.
Imagine a world in which different kinds of minds contribute from diverse platforms to form a dynamic, cohesive, global whole.
Imagine safer, gentler and stronger communities in which eclectic ways of thinking may thrive within a Neurocosmopolitan culture of resonant, empathic vibrancy.
It is not my purpose to ‘fix’ what I ‘broken’, but to empower Beauty in the vulnerable and unnoticed.
Much Ado About Nothing? – Thoughts on the curious incident of the missing photographs.
Anyone reading or following my writings in social media and here in my website – especially my ‘friendly’ stalkers – would know that I have been fussing about having been omitted in the official social media for #APAC19 – the Asia Pacific Autism Conference 2019 – which recently came to a most successful end.
You may gasp at this, and ask, “Why no autistic Keynote?” Understandable, many have asked me this question. Well, to be fair to the Singapore organisers, what has been achieved in APAC19 already represents a quantum leap in the direction of inclusion and progress for Singapore’s autism scene. I cannot express how very genuinely pleased I am at this amount of progress made within such a short time frame. But this is what is great about Singapore – once the powers-that-be decide on something, we can do it really quickly and pretty well too. This is the very first time an autism conference in Singapore included any autistic voices at all. Actual authoritative autistic presence in autism conferences was unheard of before this. So, please hold off the harsh criticism and bear with us. Baby steps. In fact, this wasn’t really a baby step at all – the baby literally propelled across a huge ravine and up a formidable mountain in one grand leap! Kudos to the organisers for taking on board the suggestions they did, and embracing the theme of ‘thriving’ in such a positive way. Autistic adults in Singapore finally had the chance to stand up and speak out, and those who presented did so with great flair and panache. I am proud to be among such brave company. The stigma is real, and many of them had to think twice, or more, before deciding to ‘come out’ of the ‘autism closet’ into the public domain – because fear of losing one’s job on account of one’s neurological difference is a very real thing here in Singapore.
So, back to the grand ‘fuss’ that I made over the last few days about the seemingly trifling issue of a few photographs of me being missing from official social media. I should not even need to explain, because any reasonable and reasoning human being would know the import of this, but I have decided to do so, in case some people failed to grasp it (there’re always the stragglers, and this explanatory post is for them, because I don’t want to leave anyone behind).
All in, it was a resounding success, one which Singapore can be proud of. Not that we have ‘arrived’ yet, but that we have been able to learn and achieve this much progressive thinking, inclusivity and respectful facilitation – all within such a short span of time.
The folks at ARC (Autism Resource Centre) were amazing! So much hard work and coordination of this mega event, and everything went excellently well, given the monumental task at hand.
1,800 people registered for this event. The largest of its kind ever in Singapore, and perhaps even in the entire Asia Pacfic region.