Eyes of Pulchritude

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.

Look Me in the Eye

Look Me in the Eye of My Autistic Honesty. Tell me your truth: that my honesty is social impairment. Now, you are unable to make eye contact. Your turn.

Empowering Beauty

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?

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.

I was involved in the organising committee and the scientific committees. I was also a Plenary Speaker in Day 1 – one of only two actual autistic researchers invited to speak. Well, I wasn’t really invited, I actually quite vehemently volunteered myself for it. I felt that an autism conference ought to feature at least some actual autistic speakers at an authoritative level. Dr. Damian Milton was the other autistic Plenary Speaker.

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).

Continue reading

APAC19 – personal highlights

20190620- a quiet moment with Lucy before my Plenary Speech (Photo courtesy of Prof. Iliana Magiati)

Head here for my brief spotlight page on APAC19 and some of my own photographs – Asia Pacific Autism Conference 2019.
(Click on the link)

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.

Continue reading

Uniquely Me Episode 5 – engulfed

Episode 5 of “Uniquely Me” aired tonight on MediaCorp’s Channel 8.

Uniquely Me – episode 5

I have to say this episode was the most unsettling to watch – almost sliding down the slippery slope of the tragedy-cum-heroic narrative, this episode featured two ‘strong’ women speaking about their lives with their autistic children, who are now young adults.

I felt very sad for the young man, Zhen Yu. Far be it for me to doubt his mother’s love for him, her dedication towards the young man pervaded the space, but there were many moments in her interaction with the young man that made me cringe and even bristle. I felt his distress, there were moments where I knew he was attempting to communicate, but the mother completely missed the gestures and sounds he made, and she chided him, as if he was a naughty toddler making a nuisance of himself, preventing her from ‘adulting’ in front of the camera. There was a split second where she even grimaced and rolled her eyes. There was a sense of embarrassment, she looked exasperated and annoyed, when interacting with him. The mother spoke mostly about her hopelessness and despair, not his.

The other autistic young person, Edura, appeared to be happier – there was a lot of physical affection going on and some smiles and laughs. Edura’s mother runs workshops or ‘sharing’ sessions for other mothers with autistic children, on physical touch and muscle relaxation. I did cringe at the word “heal” – just like “cure” and “recover” all speak of ableist concepts of autism as a scourge / disease – but I’ve come to expect it of the neuronormative way of thinking.

Continue reading

With Us

(Transferred from Bunnyhopscotch.)

“For us without us” or “Nothing about us without us”? More and more, I am meeting non-autistic allies who are standing alongside our advocacy and lending strength and dynamism to our cause. Here in Singapore, there has been an ‘awakening’ of sorts too, but we have a long way to go before we can achieve deep rooted progress at the very most fundamental levels. We are a very ‘progressive’ city – judging by what’s visible to the eye, at least. We do know how to do things well, if we want to. And we’ve done so many things extremely well. For one, I am immensely proud of our airport. There’s no need for me to sing the praises here – you can look it up anywhere and everywhere. I’m also pleased and relieved that people don’t have to fear being gunned down randomly on the street or in school. We’re by and large a pretty safe city to live in, and I’ve lived in a few rather pleasant cities too, but none with the kind of placid security that Singapore has. I am also really encouraged by the many positive changes that have taken place in the disability sector – the higher levels of awareness and desire to learn better ways – even within the short span of the last two years that I’ve been back. We are a robust little nation, and this is proof that we can do things quickly if we decide we wish to.

OK, so, here, today, I am talking about Autistic equity and autonomy.

A prominent non-autistic advocate for Autism in Singapore asked me this question, and I have no reason to doubt her sincerity, in fact, I do believe in her dedication to our cause (paraphrased):

Are only Autistic people allowed to advocate for Autism? What about non-Autistic people like parents and friends? Do we not have a stake in Autism Advocacy too?

My answer was probably a tad too wordy for this kindhearted person, because she never replied thereafter, leaving our ‘conversation’ without cadential closure, which is a ‘normal’ part of interaction with non-autistic persons. I am fine with that, technically, it’s all cool, except that this kind of thing leaves my autistic brain inside an echo chamber of very loud silence, which I am not sure what to make of, really.

Let me try to put it through again in a more neat and tidy nutshell, because I understand that non-autistic brains tend not to like too many details, and typical autistic communications tend to be detailed – hence the tension between the two realms. (Back to the empathy issue – Empathy works both ways, shouldn’t it?)

Autism Advocacy benefits greatly from the voices of our allies. We cannot do this alone. But allies are allies, you need to allow Our voices to lead the way, to shape the form and direction, and you need to listen to us about us. Stand with us, not for us.

Continue reading