This listing was originally compiled for the panellists of the Life After Death Autism Forum 2019 to reference. This is not a complete list that covers all the major issues, but it should give a rough picture of what autism advocates in Singapore ought to know about.
The world is not in black-and-white; there is much more than meets the eye about prejudice and ableism. Creating sustainable and effective solutions is never easy; the first step may be education but we must also move beyond idealistic talk into practical action. Rather than complain and wait for the world to change for our benefit, it is up to each of us to become the change that we seek, starting with improving our own selves. Let us seek to understand others first, and then to make ourselves understood by others.
Initiatives by Autistic Advocates
Insurance Discrimination against autistics highlighted by autistic autism advocate Wesley Loh
An appeal for Inclusive Equality
[I suggested “Inclusive Equality as the next step for Inclusion” as the title and used the term “disabled people” in the original letter]- https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/forum/forum-tripartite-set-up-will-better-help-disabled-community
I proposed a community solution with a focus on farming
I reminded people that accessibility is not only for the disabled
Politics & Policy Making
3rd Enabling Masterplan 2017-2021: caring nation, inclusive society
New guide launched to help firms integrate workers with special needs
A Call for Collaborative Giving: Bridging the Divide for Persons with Disabilities
“These requirements actually mean it is very unlikely we have people with disabilities as early childhood educators in the classrooms and no role models with disabilities for the young children,” Nix Sang wrote. “Doors also seem to be shut for those who would like to go into any non-teaching positions related to the sector.”
Denise Phua is the President of the Autism Resource Centre (Singapore), Member of Parliament for Jalan Besar Group Representation Constituency and Mayor of Central Singapore District. Born in 1959, she enjoyed a successful corporate career that spanned two decades. However, she gave it all up after her son was diagnosed with autism in the late 1990s. Find out why she chose to take on the challenge of starting a pioneering school for children with autism in Singapore.
Denise Phua on plugging gaps in support for people with disabilities (October 2020) – must watch
Denise Phua’s Budget COS 2019 debate speech on “Lifelong Education for Students with Special Education Needs (SEN)”
MP Denise Phua strongly supported the motion to increase support for caregivers in Parliament. She focused on caregivers of persons with disabilities – mostly parents who are themselves ageing. Calling for a “systematic and systemic” approach, she laid out five steps – to identify, individualise, integrate, implement and inspect the support process for this group of caregivers.
Persons with disabilities not part of public sector headcount: Chan Chun Sing
ESM Goh suggests tax incentives for employers who hire those with disabilities: Offering some ideas, he suggested that employers could perhaps be offered double tax deduction on the salaries of workers with disabilities. Under the Ministry of Manpower’s labour quota system, having a Singaporean employee with disabilities could perhaps count as two Singaporeans when calculating the number of foreign workers a firm is able to hire, Mr Goh proposed.
LETTER: Why setting hiring quota will help people with disabilities
Hiring persons with disabilities: Quota won’t work, says MSF. An employment quota to get more people with disabilities into the workforce will not work in Singapore, says the Government. Such a system would introduce labour market inflexibility and invite competing calls for quotas for other segments of the workforce, such as for ethnic minorities, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
More carrots offered to firms that hire those with disabilities
More than one-quarter of people with disabilities are employed in Singapore
Appropriate Adults help in 590 cases involving young suspects
Is Singapore Ready for Personal Budgets in Disability Services?
The Housing Board should look into helping parents who have children with autism by allowing them to purchase a one-or two-room flat for their special-needs kids before they turn 35. I have a son with autism who will turn 21 this year. I am looking for ways to provide him with a stable and comfortable home environment so that he will not be put away in a welfare home. Those with special needs require time to settle into a new home environment and the earlier they can do so, the better. Perhaps HDB could come up with a policy for parents of special-needs children to purchase an HDB flat as soon as they turn 21.
The way we think about charity is dead wrong (not directly autism related, but helps explain some issues)
Articles and Letters related to Mr. Dino Trakakis
Singapore Specific News Coverage
The prosecution on Monday (Sep 2) urged the court to sentence a part-time piano teacher to 18 months’ jail for molesting a five-year-old student during a class three years ago. The man, 22, was a liar who was “patently unremorseful”, said the prosecution, arguing that he was inconsistent in his statements to doctors and psychiatrists. However, the defence pointed out that his client, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, had been assessed to be suitable for probation. Jail would “destroy” the young man, who had been exempted from National Service, said the lawyer.
Justice Pang Khang Chau further noted that this does not mean that all offenders with autism spectrum disorder should not jailed, or that the prison service is incapable of taking care of persons with the disorder.
Amos Yee is unlikely to be autistic; rather he may have a personality disorder. He is intentionally and maliciously making life hard for others including his own allies. Sensational claims and the lack of an rebuttal from both the government and autism NGOs make it easy for people to misunderstand and misinterpret autism.
In 2012, the viral video of Alex Ong pushing an old lady off a bus made Eric realise that if autistics get in trouble, no autism organisation will advocate for them. Eric is working to change this situation.
– https://www.facebook.com/eXAKR/posts/10211227457161109 [2019 apology letter explaining his background]
Rodrigues (suspected of having Asperger’s Syndrome) developed a liking for Tay. He would follow Tay on his way to school and visit his family in Yishun up to a few times a day. On 9 July 2016, after Rodrigues had allegedly disturbed the family at their unit for the fifth time that day, Tay and Lim confronted Rodrigues and pinned him down at a lift landing in an alleged attempt to turn him over to the police. Rodrigues instead died at the scene from traumatic asphyxia with head injury.
In 2017, no one spoke out against sending an autistic to jail for stalking and sending letters. He was unrepresented in court. Tan Yao Min, 21, stalked the girls, now aged 18 and 14, and sent them letters with threats to rape and kill one of them. He stated, among other things, that he wanted to rape and impregnate the 18-year-old to make her “suffer”. “I like to kill her,” he wrote. The second letter stated that he “lost everything” and found life “meaningless”. He also asked them to report him to the police. He was arrested the next day after the older girl reported him.
A much better response in 2018 when another viral video broke out.
Advisor for Disabled People’s Association quits, slams lack of passion and slow pace of change in sector
When organisations representing people with disabilities in Singapore are not inclusive
Denise Phua: She wants to end segregation in schools
The boy saw two golden retrievers in a park and, drawn by their exuberance, went and played with them. Suddenly the dogs’ owner appeared and pushed the little boy. He fell on his face and cried. Ms Phua was shocked and asked the man why he would hit a child, especially one with special needs. The “big, burly man”, as she puts it, responded flippantly: “Your son has special needs? So do my dogs!”
Unable to cope with work and caring for her two sons, a Japanese woman first saw a psychiatrist and was prescribed medication. When that did not help, Nami Ogata strangled her five-year-old (autistic) son to death in their flat on Nov 14 last year, drove them to a secluded area near Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and left him in the car. The 41-year-old mother then entered the forested area and stabbed herself to death.
Advocacy & Identity
Understanding the Quality of Life of Adults with Disabilities (NCSS, 2018)
A platform for professionals with disabilities to network and help one another achieve their career aspirations.
Realities of Being an Autistic Therapist: Three Misconceptions About Autism Often Construed as “Facts”
Why Sesame Street’s new character isn’t representative of most kids with autism
People on the autism spectrum generally want to be called autistics
An Open Letter to the Media: On “Severe” Autism and Inspiration Porn
Combating Ableism: Ableism is Essentially When You Think Someone Should Be Able to Do What Their Disability Prevents Them from Doing.
The Autism Speaks Controversy and why Autistic Advocates hate it
1) Autism Speaks invest heavily on marketing, spending 42% of their funds on awareness/lobbying and 16% on fundraising
2) The general public does not respect autistic voices (and embrace the concept of “Nothing about us without us”)
3) Autism Speaks has lots of friends in high places – most of their board members are senior executives at major corporations
For those who want to learn more about the background of Autism Speaks and why they do not speak for autistics
Why Autistic Pride? [Do note that Autistic Pride is different from Autism Pride Movement. Just like Neurodiversity and the Neurodiversity Model are not the same as the Neurodiversity Movement. In other words, do not reject Autistic Pride just because we disagree with the people behind the Autistic Pride Movement.]
Against neurodiversity: The movement has good intentions, but it favours the high-functioning and overlooks those who struggle with severe autism [counterpoint to Autistic Pride]
Clearing Up Some Misconceptions about Neurodiversity: Just because you value neurological differences doesn’t mean you’re denying the reality of disabilities
The heavy burden of ‘Wondering Why’ was finally lifted when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at 18
Greta Thunberg: ‘All my life I’ve been the invisible girl’. The climate activist on becoming the face of a global movement — and why she sees her Asperger’s as a gift
Everyday Aspergers by Samantha Craft: Autobiography of an autistic advocate, writer and artist who is also an autism parent
A mother gets involved in autistic-focused autism advocacy
To understand the next few articles, please read about the concept of “Nothing about us without us”:
About 95% of all disabled characters on television are played by non-disabled actors. It’s a “mind-blowing” statistic, Rowe said, because when non-disabled actors are cast in these roles, it shuns actual disabled actors and other artists whose lived experiences are reflected in the narrative but who rarely get to be included in the creative and production process.
The Trials of Being Autistic at an Autism Research Conference: The relationship between autism researchers and the community they serve is fraught — but it’s getting better.
Autism’s largest scientific conference kicks off Wednesday in Montreal with a formidable challenge: pleasing its diverse mix of attendees, with their radically different agendas
To understand the following few articles in context, please read about the concept of the Social Model of Disability:
A medical condition or just a difference? The question roils autism community
The Neurodiversity Movement Should Acknowledge Autism as a Medical Disability: Autism doesn’t have to define a person’s identity
Autistic teenager who sued in test case over his birth agrees €7.25m settlement with hospital
Autism shouldn’t be celebrated. My three daughters are autistic. I despise Autism Awareness Month.
What is autism? How the term became too broad to have meaning any more
– By an anti-Neurodiversity autistic: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/26/autism-neurodiversity-severe
– Rebuttal by another autistic: https://petewharmby.blogspot.com/2019/08/neurodiversity-is-not-fashion-rebuttal.html
A new advocacy group for people with severe autism is spotlighting the deep divide in the community over who should speak for those on the spectrum. The National Council on Severe Autism (NCSA), which launched in January, aims to address the needs of autistic people who require the most support. Supporting people like her children might not seem like a contentious endeavor, but the backlash to the nascent organization has been swift and loud. The critics say several of the organization’s policies strip autistic people of their autonomy, instead pushing for parents or guardians to make decisions for these individuals; they also note that the organization’s board does not include anyone on the spectrum.
Thousands of people shared the video of Gallego’s interpreting and praised her for her speed and accuracy.
While I’m sure anybody would be thrilled to have total strangers congratulating them on their work performance, I have just one question for the folks going wild over Gallego’s interpreting — do you understand anything the signer is saying? If the answer is no, I want you to think before you share that video, especially if you’re doing it to feel more engaged with the Deaf community. [Not autism-related, but related to Inclusive Equality]
Autistics who dissent and want to be ‘cured’ of autism
Autistic people are four times as likely to experience depression over the course of their lives as their neurotypical peers. Yet researchers know little about why, or how best to help.
I came upon a shocking and devastating statistic: apparently the average lifespan for autistic people is 36-38 years (Joseph & Guohua, 2017). I am now 39 years old, and seeing this made my eyes well up with tears.
The Consequences of Compensation in Autism
Autistic people described as ‘high functioning’ because they do not have intellectual disability often still struggle with daily living skills
Every now and then my autistic friends and I have to explain why functioning labels are not helpful, why it works against acceptance, why it is something created by non-disabled people who knew very little about how autistic brains work, who saw autistics as lesser people, and who saw the need to grade us in order to apply their wrong assumptions in an attempt to “fix” us.
The confusion among parents and professionals is between “level of functioning” (intellectual ability), and “severity of autism.” I know of children who are labeled “high functioning” who have severe autistic traits (rigid/inflexible thinking, very resistant to change and uncertainty, and meltdown over simple snags in their day). However, they are considered “high functioning” because they are verbal, get good grades in school, and can do personal care independently.
We also have to be very careful when we equate “lack of verbal skills” with low intellectual abilities. There are many children who are nonverbal that have much higher cognitive abilities than we first recognize. They simply cannot express it in our customary ways. Once we find them a “voice”, whether through pictures, written words, manual signs, electronic devices, etc, we find that they have much stronger cognitive skills than we had anticipated.
Working with the Autism Diagnostic Research Centre in Southampton we assessed 146 adults who were referred to the centre seeking a diagnosis of autism between 2008 and 2015, and who consented to take part in the research. People were aged between 18 and 74 years old. Our analysis showed that age and severity of autism were linked; that is, as age increased so did the severity of autism symptoms in social situations, communication and flexible thinking (such as coping with change or generating new ideas or solutions). We also found that older people with autism were more likely than younger people to extract rules from situations or prefer structure (for example, wanting to know how committees are organised or always following the same routine during a task). This pattern did not occur in the group of 46 people who didn’t have autism. Whether this tendency to extract rules is a “worsening” of autism symptoms or a general trend among all older people is not yet clear.
Emerging research suggests people on the autism spectrum could be less likely to reflect on specific experiences, infer from them or recognise regularities in them.
Meta-analysis highlights important challenges in cognitive processing for adults with ASD
Transgender, non-binary people ‘significantly’ more likely to be autistic: A new study found 14% of trans/non-binary people have autistic traits, but health organizations are cautious of the results
Conditions comorbid to autism spectrum disorders
Adult Support (Employment & Career Specific)
New tripartite initiative to help Singapore firms hire persons with disabilities: This is the first such partnership among the “public, private and people sectors” in Singapore, United Overseas Bank (UOB) said in a media statement on Tuesday evening. It is a collaboration among UOB, government-established agency SG Enable, Autism Resource Centre (ARC), Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) and SPD.
Ashraf’s Cafe started by S’porean parents for their autistic son: Food served right from the heart.
Australians with autism are getting support to start their own businesses
Learn more about a company whose entire staff is autistic: Gary Benoist, a father of two autistic sons, founded a Los Angeles firm in 2013 called MindSpark. It was later acquired by German-based Auticon, an international IT service provider and the “first company in Germany to exclusively employ people on the autism spectrum as Technology consultants.” Benoist wanted to make sure his sons would get the help they needed, no matter where they worked. But there were few options. “Both are incredibly capable and smart and deserve an opportunity to be able to express that,” Benoist told the BBC. “I felt that the gap had to be filled and there was no other way to fill it than by taking action myself.” The business is now 150 employees strong and one of his sons works in the finance department.
Auticon, previously known as Mindspark, is one of only a handful of companies that cater exclusively for employees who are on the autistic spectrum. It was founded by Gray Benoist who, as the father of two autistic sons, saw few options in the workplace that could cater for their needs.
What happens when people who have trouble fitting into a traditional workplace get one designed just for them?
For Autistics by Autistics: We work directly with autistic persons, families and businesses in individual unique, creative approaches. We’re also guiding businesses, organizations and individuals to meet autistic people in the middle, building neurodiverse, inclusive workplace cultures, welcoming to all persons.
Twenty-One Years After Her Autism Diagnosis, Haley Moss Is Admitted to the Florida Bar: Her doctor said she might never fully speak. In May she gave the commencement speech at the University of Miami School of Law and will now start her career at the firm Zumpano Patricios.
SPD’s Day Activity Centre is Now Open to Adults with Autism
Autistic teens helped into adulthood at Los Angeles-based Spark Social Club, from dancing and make-up to dating and sex
A social network for Singapore’s special needs community? There may soon be an app for that
“A place where you don’t need to translate yourself” – Inside Felicity House, a New York social club for women with autism.
Sachse man with autism helps design virtual world to make life better for adults like him
Creative Studio for Variously-abled Adults working to end social isolation: Social isolation can be a reality for people with developmental disabilities, especially if they can’t communicate well. That concerns Chris Weppler, a volunteer who leads Creative Studio for Variously-abled Adults at Spokane’s Spark Central. The free sessions twice a month promote social interaction alongside crafts and games. Adults who attend might have cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or severe autism.
Aspie-neurotypical relationships often start out with intense passion, then fizzle and devolve into disaster. For the purpose of this article, I have used the word “aspie” instead of “autistic;” however, the two terms should be considered interchangeable in this article. The reason for this word choice is that most searches about adult autism use the words “Asperger’s” or “aspie.”
Abundant evidence supports the use of the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM), facilitated communication (FC), and similar methodologies that teach individuals with complex communication needs to communicate effectively by typing or pointing to letters on a letterboard.
The Double Empathy Problem: Developing Empathy and Reciprocity in Neurotypical Adults
Beginning a second decade to advance the rights of persons with disabilities
“Hiding” special needs kids at home does them no good, says Mr Clement Puah Neo, who has raised his intellectually disabled son Conrad like any other child
A Behavior Plan For Parents of Newly Diagnosed Autistic Children
Parents turn advocates in special needs community: Ms Lilian Kuan, Ms Fara Zainal, Mr Mark Lim, Ms Mary Heng, Ms Sun Meilan and Mr Kenneth Mah were the panellists at a workshop held at the Rainbow Centre yesterday that covered the topic of helping parents to be effective advocates for their children with special needs.
Growing up with autistic parents: my story
Abuse, Controversies, Crime, Discrimination & Exploitation
The AutismSTEP Scandal – an abusive therapist caught on video
– https://www.facebook.com/safirah.oshin/posts/3321603464536911/ [original video]
– https://www.facebook.com/safirah.oshin/videos/3329526000411324/ [child’s parents’ reactions]
The man recognised Mr Li as the Prime Minister’s son. He picked up Mr Li who was waiting for a hail taxi. Mr Li is a vulnerable person. It is public knowledge that Mr Li has Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and in non-verbal communication. This is compounded by Mr Li’s albinism, which results in his having very poor eyesight.
The driver then filmed his interactions with Mr Li using his handphone, apparently while driving, and subsequently circulated the videos. In the confined setting of his car, the man can be heard (in a video), repeatedly asking Mr Li to confirm his identity, residential address and security arrangements.
Children age 12 and up were most susceptible to advice from the advisor, even when they could see the advice was wrong. They were also slowed in their decision-making when deciding whether to follow bad advice or not. Younger children, on the other hand, tended to ignore the advisor regardless of their age. The researchers also found that the autistic children are less susceptible to such social influence regardless of their age, or the age of the advisor.
Presenting While Autistic – Top 10 Red Flags of Tokenism and Exploitation of Autistic Professionals
Just 5 in 100 people here with disabilities have jobs: Having a disability is testing enough but there is an added challenge for those affected in Singapore – getting a job. Only an estimated five out of every 100 people with disabilities here are employed, based on calculations by The Straits Times. At just 4.9 per cent, the rate is one of the lowest among developed societies. And there is an intensely human side to these statistics, as Dr Dawn-joy Leong can attest to. The 53-year-old, who has autism, has been trying to find a teaching job for the last two years but to no avail. She returned to Singapore from Australia in late 2016 after having completed her PhD in autism and neurodiversity. This is the first time an estimate of the employment rate for the disabled in Singapore has been arrived at.
This Is How Employers Weed Out Disabled People From Their Hiring Pools: A recent ad for a journalism job underscored the challenges that can face job candidates with disabilities
In another case over non-disclosure, a woman had a critical illness claim declined after she had surgery for thyroid cancer in a private hospital in mainland China. The company refused the claim as the woman did not disclose she had been diagnosed with a blood disorder before she bought insurance. The panel ruled that the medical information the woman failed to disclose would not affect the insurance company’s underwriting decision. She was awarded HK$700,000 for her critical illness claim. [This means autistics can choose not to disclose autism to avoid being rejected for health insurance, and the insurers cannot refuse to pay claims if the medical issue is not related to autism.]
Professionals in the fields of education and rehabilitation psychology have long used disability simulations to try to promote understanding and improve attitudes about persons with disabilities. To simulate blindness, for instance, participants might complete tasks while wearing blindfolds or goggles. Others use earplugs to mimic deafness. Others may navigate indoor and outdoor areas in a wheelchair. The idea is to boost empathy by giving people perspective on what it is like to have a disability.
However, a recent study published by Michelle Nario-Redmond, Ph.D., professor of psychology, reveals that disability simulations often result in feelings of fear, apprehension and pity toward those with disabilities, proving Nario-Redmond’s thesis that disability simulations do more harm than good.
Is ABA Really “Dog Training for Children”? A Professional Dog Trainer Weighs In.
The Rise of ‘Weaponized Autism’: What happens when trolls invoke disability in the name of alt-right politics?
NSF Allegedly Diagnosed With Autism For Not Being Able To Tie Boot Laces
When autistic people commit sexual crimes: Many first-time sex offenders on the spectrum may not understand the laws they break. How should their crimes be treated?
Court dismisses appeal for intellectually disabled teen who raped schoolmate to be jailed, caned [Not autism related, but a case study of how the court takes disability into account when sentencing]
Frustrated that he could not find his way to his appointments with a social worker and a counsellor, a teenager with Down syndrome turned aggressive and took it out on strangers and things around him. Having pleaded guilty to charges of mischief, causing public nuisance and criminal intimidation, 19-year-old Lee Ming Zheng was on Thursday (Feb 14) sentenced to 18 months’ probation. [Not autism related, but a case study of how the court takes disability into account when sentencing]
The defense argues that an obviously psychopathic person is autistic, even though the defendant denies that he is autistic. A classical case of confusing psychopathy with autism – such reputational smearing of the autistic community must be stopped or else it will undo all the good work of the autistic advocates.
Wee, who has an IQ of 60, was jailed three years and nine months for his offenses. The 24-year-old had pleaded guilty to one charge of voluntarily causing grievous hurt and two other rioting charges. [Not autism related, but a case study of how the court takes disability into account when sentencing]
Autistic man, 24, spared jail for Nintendo cyber attacks after court is told ‘he can’t help himself’
We are a group of volunteers who consist of neurologists, psychiatrists, educators and caregivers who came together with the desire to form a community and conduct evident-based talks and Q&A sessions, pro bono on a monthly basis.
List of previous Autism-related videos on Toggle
17-year-old Chester was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. He started getting bullied in his mainstream school, then was sent to Pathlight, but faced even more stigma from society. This is the story of a boy, his mother, and the fight to be socially accepted. (21 Sep 2016)