“I want my seat… I want my seat I want my seat I want my seat.. I WANT MY SEAT!”
You look up and watch as a guy begins to yell, his finger jabbing towards an already-taken spot of the cafe. He desperately wants that one spot, although there are plenty of empty spots surrounding him.
What is your first thought?
We are often quick to judge people who behave unconventionally, jumping to negative assumptions rather than taking an empathetic stance. However, while we may think that the above situation is rare and abnormal, this is the reality that many persons with autism and their caregivers face.
“Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to make sense of the world and relate with others… a person with autism is often referred to as someone who lives in a world of his own.” – Autism Resource Centre
It is reported that 1 in 150 children in Singapore has autism, a number higher than the global rate. Additionally, it is important to note that reported rates often understate the real numbers due to the cases that go unreported and undiagnosed.
Despite our fast-progressing world, the stigma against individuals with autism is still very much present in our modern nation.
“One parent I spoke to ended up making cards to hand out to passers-by as they “tsk tsk”-ed their way past her son as he had a meltdown… The card simply informed them that he was autistic and asked for their understanding.” – Adrian Pang
From bullying to workplace inequality, persons with autism are prone to being discriminated against at all ages.
“…there was one day her son returned from school feeling down and lonely — not only did nobody at school want to play with him, despite his repeated attempts to invite them to, he was also laughed at when he slipped and fell on a patch of wet floor. Nobody helped him up either.” – Mothership, reporting a mother’s account of her autistic child’s bullying.
In a changing era where we’re learning to be inclusive and preach equality regardless of differences, we need to stop the discrimination against autistic individuals and their caregivers.
The news that SAAC is building a home for autistic people is a godsend to us. At least we have a glimmer of hope that my son can still have a community home and be taken care of when the time comes – Ang Whee Chin
Just like everyone else, persons with autism can be productive, valuable members of the society with proper support and education. Autism does not change the fact that individuals have the potential to blossom in the right environment.
Furthermore, the stigma against autism also discourages people from going for diagnostic assessments, thus hindering them from receiving the right treatment early.
“People use the term “autism” to define me, but I define Autism” – Chu Jun Ming