Proposition: Support my further studies and I will help create long-term sustainable solutions for the autistic community. Specifically, I will create (1) a special course that can help adult autistics without intellectual disabilities thrive in mainstream society, and (2) create a non-profit Asian-focused international network led by autistics that will empower/support the autistic community (including non-speaking autistics who require external support and care).
[This project is still being planned, and the information on this page should not be taken as final. I am considering options other than crowdfunding. If I go ahead with crowdfunding, the campaign will only start when I am successfully accepted into the Masters in Counselling course in March 2020.]
Why are the existing ways for helping autistics inadequate?
Most of what people do for adult autistics without intellectual disability are classified into three categories:
1) Reducing Burden: Trying to reduce the burden of autistics on their caretakers, such as training them to do domestic duties and pressuring them to take any available job regardless of suitability.
2) Pretending to be Normal: Trying to make the autistics blend in with everyone else, such as intensively rehearsing for job interviews and forcing them into mainstream schools that are not equipped to support them.
3) Exchanging Dreams for Drudgery: Persuading autistics to give up the only meaningful parts of their life in exchange for meaningless work and unfulfilling pursuits.
Meanwhile, training approaches for autistics often rely on oversimplifying and breaking skills and concepts into atomic parts, imparting a disconnected world that is just as fragmented as the autistic consciousness it is supposed to help.
The assumption is that autistics can rely solely on their minds to work with NeuroTypical society while ignoring their own (irrational) emotions, physical bodies and immaterial soul. The presupposition is that enough rehearsals, studying and preparation will fix the autistic “deficiencies”.
However, the fundamental issues go deeper than just “attitude” and “social skills”. No amount of learning to read faces, consuming psychiatric medication and going for counselling will actually bridge the autistic consciousness with NeuroTypical society. Much of the efforts by NeuroTypicals result in burned out, emotionally fragile, and unhappy autistics who try to stay in their comfort zones to hide from a nasty and meaningless world.
I propose a new revolutionary approach
One of the key differences about Project 7A is that it aims to wean autistics off NeuroTypical help. It is not just about advocating to NeuroTypicals about autism, but also advocating to fellow autistics to take responsibility for their own lives. There are many well-intended projects that engage lots of non-autistic therapists, job coaches or other professionals to spoon-feed autistics to learn/plan/do things that they chose not to make the effort to learn/plan/do for themselves, but no known projects that empower autistics to develop their resilience and take the initiative to solve their own problems.
Let us addresses autistics as people who have emotional, bodily, and spiritual needs: to trust in the Goodness of Humanity, to perceive the Beauty of the world, to recognise the Meaning in our lives, and to express ourselves with Authenticity. Instead of living a Mother-Driven Life, we live a Purpose-Driven Life. Instead of escaping from our physical body, we choose to embrace and be fully born into this world. Instead of hiding our weaknesses and evading our responsibilities, we will confront and fix them. Instead of letting others run our lives, we will make use of the power of creation to express ourselves fully and confidently.
One of the forms that Project 7A can take is a 2-year foundational course in NeuroTypical Studies that also incorporates personal mastery to let autistics become aware of their inner world, resolve their personal issues and take the next step towards their own freedom. After many years of oppression and hurt including from some family members, most of us need to work on ourselves before we can change our behaviours to be effectively employed and integrated into society. It is just not feasible to toss us into the ocean of employment and expect us to become expert swimmers instantly.
The addition knowledge I obtain by learning how NeuroTypicals provide mental health support, life coaching services and art therapy will come in handy for me to create this new course. The course goes beyond behavioural management, social skills training, job coaching, counselling, and achieving material success. The course aims to recover the passion within each autistic individual and find ways to channel it constructively to change the world, while fulfilling their responsibilities and sustaining themselves. This is not about getting a job or even creating a career, this is about living a life as a complete human being in the material world as part of a community.
To help you imagine what is possible, take a look at this video which shares the same spirit as what I envision.
A win-win deal for the autism community
I hereby propose that the autism community crowdfund a scholarship to support me in obtaining suitable internationally recognised qualifications in order to complete my research work and to be respected as an autism and mental health professional:
- Part-time Masters in Counselling (SGD$38,000)
- Full-time Master of Expressive Arts Therapy (~SGD$90,000 including living expenses in Hong Kong)
- [tentative] Full-time Waldorf Education Teacher Training (~SGD$70,000 including living expenses in Australia)
In exchange, I will contribute the same amount of training/contact hours of my studies to establish and work for the non-profit autistic-run organisation 7A (Autistic Affirmative Accepting Advancing Actualising Astute Alliance).
I will create my own proprietary personal mastery system that can help autistics adapt to NeuroTypical society meaningfully. I may set up my own private business to provide services, and donate my time to 7A to help the needy autistics who cannot afford to pay commercial rates for my services.
Those who have benefited materially from the free help (e.g. was only able to work in sheltered workshops but now works as a highly paid programmer) are morally obliged to donate part of their future savings (excess income after subtracting expenses and taxes) to 7A. The amount will be negotiated before services are provided and a moral commitment written down in black and white.
Autistic-driven Initiative to help ourselves
Practicing Inclusive Equality means treating all members of the autism community as equal partners. Inspired by this spirit, 7A is a non-partisan organisation that gently educates the public while firmly applying pressure to create strategic change in a constructive manner. This is an organisation that will find ways to provide support for adult autistics through sustainable self-empowerment.
When a significant number of adult autistics who have benefited from 7A programmes are donating to 7A, 7A will start to expand its outreach. The first step will be to set up scholarships and seed funds for promising autistics to advance their career and to conduct research into improving the quality of life of autistics. The next step is to establish affordable insurance services, housing options and self-sustainable farming communities for autistics. Eventually, 7A will help establish integrated communities for autistics who have high support needs (e.g. with severe intellectual disabilities) in keeping its promise to help all autistics.
Rather than do autism advocacy directly, 7A can help train autistics to do advocacy work by equipping them with suitable attitudes and relevant basic skills. Rather than the confrontational win-lose style of some well-known advocates, 7A will support a gentler and constructive form of advocacy that introduces important views in a pragmatic, relevant and win-win manner.
7A aims to unite the autism community and facilitate the healing of the emotional wounds of all parties, becoming a role model for Asian autistic organisations to emulate. The first few branches will likely operate in Singapore, Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, and perhaps even Canada where I can make use of my existing connections. Eventually, it will expand across Asia, and eventually worldwide.
The 7A network will provide many opportunities for autistics to learn and interact with different cultures, and if necessary, to receive international help and support across many countries. For example, Singaporeans may not be able to afford to start a farm for autistics in Singapore, but might be able to partner like-minded people in another country to do so.
The funding will be requested in stages: I will have to obtain the earlier qualification and be accepted into the new course before I raise funds for it. I may revise the plan according to the situation. For example, if the Masters of Expressive Arts degree becomes available in Singapore in a few year’s time, I will be able to cut my study expenses by more than half.
The Part-time Masters in Counselling will be my test case to gauge how much support Singaporeans will give to this project. In the event that my fund raising campaign is far from the the amount requested by the end of my studies, I may decide to discontinue this project in Singapore and/or modify the scope of 7A. I will instead volunteer my time (prorated based the amount I raised divided by the study expenses) to serve needy autistics in Singapore. After I have served my bond, I will be free to pursue overseas opportunities.
While crowdfunding is in progress, I may apply for grants or other sources of sponsorship. I may also accept offers from sponsors who wish to make private deals or arrangements with me. When I do get these alternative sources of funds, I will reduce the target amount that I am requesting via crowdfunding accordingly.
In the rather unlikely event that I get more than I requested, the extra funds will go to the next stage of my studies. If I have completed all my studies, those funds will be donated to the 7A non-profit organisation.