A very special street party: 20th years at Jln Bintang Tiga

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Who says the kampung spirit is dead?

Meet residents from Jln Bintang Tiga. For 20 years as of writing, they have kept their special street party tradition alive.

The residents would come together annually on National Day.

 

The parties started out small. There were few families present and it involved a simple potluck dinner.

Since 2013, the event has even been supported by the Singapore Kindness Movement!

One of the residents, James Suresh pointed out:

We had a small gathering at the suggestion of one of our old neighbours who has since moved out. It piqued the curiosity of some of the other neighbours, and so we decided to organise a proper party that everyone could attend.

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The yearly tradition has grown much from its humble beginnings: better organization, more food, more participants, and most of all, more joy.

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Suresh’s wife, Evelyn Chew, runs a well-oiled publicity process. She announces the celebrations by posting flyers into each letterbox. She later follows up with respective phone calls and arranges who’s bringing what.

Even old neighbours who have moved out still return for the yearly gathering. Evelyn would extend the invitation for them, keeping the love alive even if they have moved.

The parties gives residents a chance to interact beyond the small talk and the “hi bye” formalities.

Suresh substantiates:

We’ve got neighbours helping to prepare food, and collate names for registration. There’s also a couple just down the street that helps with the games – the husband puts in a lot of time to craft a piñata for the children, and the wife makes a beautiful jelly cake that commemorates how many years the Jalan Bintang Tiga street party has been going on for.

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Facilitating and continuing on the kampung spirit is why residents consistently look forward to the yearly party, and that it has lasted for a good 20 years.

Suresh also reflects on fostering a friendly and welcoming neighbourhood:

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In neighbourhoods that are not very friendly… you can just have a quarrel with your neighbours over parking spaces, for example, and not feel anything because there’s no love lost.

But if you’ve built strong friendships with your neighbours, you won’t have issues when someone parks outside your house or celebrates a wedding or festive occasion. You’re willing to let them take your space, and you have no qualms handing your keys to your neighbours for safekeeping when you’re on holiday because you trust them.

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The 20th anniversary of the celebrations was extra special as Jalan Bintang Tiga would be recognised as Singapore’s first “Friendly Street”.

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The event usually ends off with an exciting water bomb session, planned by Suresh’s and Evelyn’s adult children.

If anybody sends over their maid to help, we’ll say, ‘No, get the kids to clean up’.

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Suresh also reflects, back during the 16th anniversary of party celebrations:

Are we really the only street that does this? I hope not! We don’t have to wait for someone else to build this neighbourhood spirit for us – we can do it ourselves! I hope many more will do so.

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Go beyond the small talk today.

Despite festivities being held at Jalan Bintang Tiga, other neighbourhoods can take inspiration from the friendly neighbourhood and foster their own communities with our newfound Kampung spirit!

 


Cover image from here (left) and here (right).

70th blood donation from a man with intellectual disabilities

Conrad Puah Neo made his first blood donation in 1997, and has donated his blood 69 times since.

 

Looking forward to donating

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Even when I was a blood donor, when they were doing the donation I would just turn away – I didn’t want to look, I didn’t want to anticipate it. Not him, he will look at the needle!

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Conrad always looks forward to donating more blood, and sometimes even a month after donation, he will inquire on when he can donate even more blood yet again!

I like to donate blood and I’m not scared, this blood will save patients.

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Early Development

Conrad suffers from an intellectual disability, due to suffering from a high fever when he was younger.

His parents did not realise that the fever would have such a large impact on Conrad until they they realized his delays on several milestones whilst growing up.

His condition was finally confirmed when he was 4 years of age. His parents were initially devastated, but they later pledged to immerse him in a normal life:

We would not ‘hide’ him at home, and he would socialise like others in his age group.

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Being helpful in his nature

Conrad graduated from Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) Towner Gardens School when he was 18.

He currently packs earphones at Minds Idea Employment Development Centre (MINDS IEDC).

His father, Clement, gushes about how Conrad is always looking out for how to be helpful to those around him.

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We spent three years in Israel where he went to a Hebrew school. At the first parent-teacher conference, the teacher said: ‘Please tell Conrad not to be so helpful!’

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Conrad has often been commended on the fact that he is willing to bend over backwards to be of service to others:

He would see the teacher drop the duster and from the back of the class, he would walk there. And when he walks, he doesn’t care what comes in between… even the table could be knocked over. That’s him.

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Conrad certainly has a heart of gold, and takes initiative in attempts to help others.

 

Like father, like son

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Frequently accompanying Mr Puah Neo to his blood donating adventures, it was only about time that Conrad followed suit.

I explained to him that blood saves lives, so from very young, he wanted to donate blood himself. So as soon as he was able to, when he was 21 years old, I brought him.

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Unfortunately, there appears to be fewer youths coming forward to donate blood. From 2012 to 2016, is has been reported that the number of youths donating blood decreased by 13%.

This greatly contrasts the growing demand, of which blood usage rate is said to increase 3% to 5% annually.

Regular donors like Conrad are important to the blood replenishing ecosystem we currently have in place in Singapore.

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Conrad aims to reach his 100th donation in 2023!

His outlook to life and willingness to help others through any given capacity is testament to his desire to simply be good. Conrad has never let his intellectual disability stopped him from doing more and doing good.

Conrad’s ways also prompts us to donate more blood, due to the consistent need by our fellow Singaporeans. Let us, like Conrad, lend a helping hand.


If you would like to donate blood, you can sign up here with HSA.

Cover image from here (left) and here (right).

Scoring together with those with special needs

Xian Li thought he was going to teach football to children when he signed up as a volunteer for Special Olympics Singapore.

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Instead, he became part of a team that competed at Play Inclusive, an annual sporting competition. His capacity as a volunteer is as a “unified volunteer”, in which he plays sports together with those who have intellectual disabilities.

In doing so, Special Olympics Singapore hopes to bring people together through the shared experience of sport – fostering a spirit of understanding for one another.

The competition features 5 sporting events: badminton, basketball, floorball, football, and goalball.

Xian Li’s team managed to clinch the first runner-up spot in football.

 

Buddies

One of the intellectually disabled teammates Xian Li had was Fhairul.

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Fhairul is one of his teammates, and outside of football, Fhairul undergoes a work attachment programme with Swensens.

Xian Li understands that it was extremely unlikely to befriend Fhairul if he did not volunteer:

Sometimes in society, there’s an assumption that people with intellectual disabilities are inferior. But when we play football, we are actually on the same level. In fact, Fhairul scored two goals for the team!

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Indeed, sports certainly did bring Xian Li and Fhairul closer as it highlighted their similarities.

 

Development

Via sport, both Xian Li and Fhairul had much to learn in terms of being a team player.

Xian Li himself, found that he had much to improve on due to his hot-headed nature. Through understanding his teammates, he better understands that it is essential to manage his temper.

The Programme teaches all of us to be patient.

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As for Fhairul, he has greatly developed his self-esteem through weekly interaction with his teammates and with the sport. He has also learnt to become more adaptable an individual. And like Xian Li, he has learnt to be patient whilst dealing with stressful situations such as being tackled by an opponent.

 

Focusing on play

Fhairul reflects upon his experience as a teammate:

It doesn’t matter if I’m first or second, as long as I did my best during the match.

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Their coach teases them that they would want to play yet another match if they could, and they look forward to the chance to have friendly matches with their opponents.

Regardless of one’s background, sports provides an opportunity to celebrate the gift of play. All in good fun, Xian Li and Fhairul have cultivated a wonderful friendship through play.

Chinese family eventually accepts son’s African partner

Clarence Tan shares his wonderful story of how love conquers all on popular Facebook Group Subtle Asian Traits.

 

The couple

Clarence is Chinese. His newly-wedded wife, Edna Sophia, is from Ghana, West Africa.

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Having dated for 3 years, they managed to tie the knot with Clarence’s father’s full blessings.

 

Trials and tribulations

Perhaps almost naturally, Clarence’s family reacted with resistance, especially from his father.

While it was easy to simply brush off his family’s disapproval and married Edna anyway, Clarence refused to due to having fostered a close relationship with his dad. Clarence was adamant about gaining the approval of his parents.

Clarence’s father commonly raised comments to do with the distinct cultures and backgrounds the two came from, and that he might potentially face challenges in the future as a businessman.

“Hurtful” comments have been passed:

Clarence, this is your choice so you can do whatever you want. But don’t expect my blessing. I may or may not show up at the wedding if you marry her.

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Undoubtedly a demoralizing comment, but Clarence saw hope that his father did not outright declare that he would ultimately not show up at the wedding.

 

The plan

Clarence decided to bring her home on a weekly basis to get to know his parents.

The beginnings were especially rough, for the tension was palpable. His father often puts on a look that conveyed a mix of disapproval and wanting to maintain his composure. Edna too, had to struggle since she was hyperaware that she was unwelcome.

Edna and Clarence often got into arguments as the latter often pushed her into visiting his family. At one point, Clarence even had to lie that she was personally invited for dinner.

 

I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face

Slowly but surely, his family eventually warmed-up to Edna. They’ve come to learn of Edna’s wonderful attributes, as detailed by Clarence:

She’s intelligent, kind, extremely caring & considerate, and polite. They learned about her spending most of her free time working on building my company (now our company, obviously), as well as her financially supporting me at times. I had purposely kept it silent as it was embarrassing— but they eventually found out that it was their son who lucked out. After enough invites and conversations, they realized that this is for real and they started opening up to her.

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After 3 years of hard work, Clarence and Edna were finally able to tie the knot.

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His family, too, had a change of heart, and his dad was the couple’s biggest supporter.

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It was difficult but 100% worth— since she’s the one.

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Clarence understood the importance of filial piety, and wanted to ensure both Edna and his family could live harmoniously in the long-run.

Having also shared this on the Subtle Asian Traits group, Clarence hopes to spread a message of never giving up and letting their love inspire.

Clarence and Edna’s tenacity and determination allowed them to start their marriage on a right foot, and we hope nothing but the best for the couple.

Run4Love: Conquering 160km to raise funds for underprivileged children

The Runner

Meet Dr. Tan Eng Han, founder of Overseas SG (OSG) wanted to do more in his capacity as a volunteer.

OSG is an non-profit organization centered on building a culture of sharing with ASEAN Youths overseas and at home.

Dr. Tan and OSG volunteers have held various events over the years: mentorship sessions, forum discussions, and several business case competitions.

Yet Dr. Tan wanted to give more:

I constantly questioned myself – what can OSG do on a meaningful and sustainable basis?

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It was then Dr. Tan come across a non-profit organization for underprivileged children, Shanghai Baby’s Home. It is meant to support children who may have been abandoned and have urgent medical needs. Given costly medical fees, the organization constantly requires funds.

And thus, Run4Love was born. A partnership with Bridge+, an organization that owns several flexi-spaces throughout Singapore and China. Both organizations collaborated in spearheading a fundraising activity meant to support Shanghai Baby’s Home.

Even as he organized the run, Dr. Tan himself partook in the run: a 200km run across Shanghai.

 

The Run

Lasting for about 35 hours, the run began at one of Bridge+’s spaces on 9 August 2019 to 100AM Mall Shanghai the next evening.

While the run was not smooth sailing due to Typhoon Lekima, the planned distance of 200km, unfortunately, had to be cut short.

Dr. Tan was all smiles as he crossed the finish line.

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They later celebrated by presenting a cheque of an astonishing RMB 200k raised from the run.

Fellow volunteers celebrated him as he championed the run and finished strong.

Impact

Dr. Tan reflects:

This journey brought Singaporeans in China together, Singaporeans and the local community together, colleagues and friends together, and more importantly, it helped everyone one involved fulfilled a little of their internal aspirations.

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The funds raised from the charity run will continue to fund orphans who are in need of medical attention. It is in their hopes that the children under their care can end up living normal lives as well as being adopted locally or overseas.

Overall, Dr. Tan hopes to build a strong Singaporean community in China, where he resides.

In doing so, one can build strong communities within the overseas Singaporeans, and create an environment of love and care for various communities.

Leaving banking job in NY to making organic clothes in India

“Thousands will kill for your job” – Prateek Kayan had that kind of job. A banking job in New York meant a lifestyle of glamour and comfort.

Except it wasn’t the case for Prateek.

I knew that my heart lay in fashion. Each day, in New York, reminded me of that. Yet leaving a cushy banking job wasn’t easy, but I’m lucky that I was able to gather the courage, move back home to Kolkata and begin working on my dream.

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Prateek uprooted his entire life and moved back to his hometown, Kolkata, to chase his dreams.

Hence, Brown Boy was born. Prateek calls it the “World’s Healthiest & Happiest clothing brand”, and it’s easy to see why.

 

The Healthiest

Launched in 2014, Prateek was careful not to fall in the trap of venturing into the more profitable unsustainable fast fashion market.

It was learning at every step and it still continues. It was at that point that I saw the dark reality of the trade. Among other things, it was the trend of unsustainable fast fashion encouraging modern-day slavery that pushed me to start a new discourse. I chose to not follow the herd into an unethical supply chain, breeding insatiable greed, and instead started a brand which redefines fashion in a sustainable way.

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The problem of current cotton usage has also been taken note of:

Cotton covers 2.5 per cent of the world’s cultivated land, yet it accounts for 25 per cent of the world’s insecticide market and 10 per cent of global pesticide sales, making it the most pesticide-intensive crop grown on the planet

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The use of pesticides are truly detrimental in the long-run, as they get washed away into water bodies. Pesticide residue can lead to truly devastating effects due to their carcinogenic properties and various other health issues.

In turn, Brown Boy takes up the responsibility of ensuring that their clothes are made up of 100% organic cotton.

Brown Boy clothes are completely organic, cruelty-free, chemical-free and sustainable, making them truly the healthiest clothing brand out there.

 

The Happiest

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Prateek ensures that his team works under proper, fair, and non-hazardous working conditions with his mission to end ‘modern-day slavery’ that is unfortunately prominent in the fast fashion industry.

They are not just my team, but my family and its important to take care of your family. And, that’s why even the colour dyes used are not made of hazardous materials like pesticides, nickel, lead or other heavy metals, that can harm them while working.

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Instead of exploiting workers, Prateek ensures that he treats his team members as fellow human beings.

In fact, Brown Boy has also been aptly awarded the title of “The World’s Healthiest and Happiest Apparel Brand” for their efforts in fair compensation and the belief that “happy people make ‘happy clothes’.”

 

The Payoff

With much uncertainty and going into the unpredictable fashion industry, Prateek knowingly went into an uphill challenge.

Owing to crowdfunding efforts, Prateek was able to raise enough funds to kick-start his business.

Today, it has catapulted into the spotlight, where his clothes have been donned on by various Bollywood and Hollywood celebrities such as Robert Downey, Jr. and Hrithik Roshan:

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It would have been much easier for Prateek to simply turn to fast fashion: employees are cheaper, losses can be made up more quickly, and there was generally much more time for trial and error.

Yet it is Prateek’s consistency in his sustainable efforts that have led him to create such a meaningful brand. The success of his clothing signifies the appreciation of his efforts and that many others resonate with his brand.

“One of the best days of my life” says MLB star Yasiel Puig visiting a Jewish camp for terminally ill

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MLB player Yasiel Puig from the Cleveland Indians recently visited Camp Simcha, a Jewish summer camp for children with terminal illnesses. While Puig wanted to brighten the lives of the children, he recounts that he has gained so much more.

Beginning with a favour from his friend, Irv Bauman, whose grandson helps out at Camp Simcha.

My grandson actually asked me if it would be possible if Yasiel would possibly make a visit to the camp, and the kids would just go crazy if they saw him.

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Puig responds with great enthusiasm:

Of course, I’ll do it.

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With that, Puig took his chance on his off-day against the New York Mets to rent a helicopter and flew straight to Camp Simcha.

Learning about Jewish heritage

Being Cuban, Puig spent time with Bauman in learning about kosher, religion, and various songs to better assimilate himself into Jewish culture.

He was so into it, it was amazing. It’s hard to describe how into it he was.

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Despite his star status, Puig was able to humble himself and give it his all to be respectful to the children he ended up visiting.

The visit

Hiding his bright-red hair, Puig put on a fake tiger head to hide his identity.

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The crowd was undoubtedly excited by his presence.

But Puig soon got to work and focused on the children he wanted to visit. He went around and participated in various camp activities. He made candles, and of course played a game of catch.

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Reflecting on his personal experience, Puig mentions:

That’s pretty amazing because when I was a little kid, I dreamed that somebody famous or somebody from any sport would come to me and say hi or pass time with me and show me around any sport and share moments with me.

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Puig even paid a visit to the infirmary to spend time with a child who was too sick to participate in group activities. They spent quality time in Finding Waldo.

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Wanting to return

Puig’s enthusiasm hasn’t died down after his visit. In fact, he asked how soon he could return the moment he left the camp.

A mother writes to Bauman for making Puig’s visit possible:

Mr. Bauman, I have to thank you. I have not seen my son smile like that since he was born.

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His impact has been felt all over the world, and has touched the hearts of many. May Puig’s actions inspire others to brighten someone’s day!

Redeafination: Redefining the idea of a deaf dancer

Redefinition

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A hip hop dance crew for the deaf, Redeafination seeks to redefine by tying in the words “deaf” and “nation” into their name.

With their aims to grow a nation of deaf dancers, Redeafination has come far, most recently performing at Deaffest in the UK: a leading Deaf-led Film & Arts Festival.

An absurd idea?

It may seem absurd at how someone deaf can dance. The ability to be attuned to the music is perhaps a prerequisite for the aspiring dancer.

Yet Redeafination overcomes this, as they focus on sensing the vibrations coming from the music.

Basically we all feel that music doesn’t really need to be heard; it can be felt, it can be seen.

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They certainly give “feel the music” take on greater meaning as their other senses come to life.

11 years strong

Having started in 2008, the group today is 12-member strong, featuring a group of a majority of deaf and non-deaf dancers, and they are frequently invited to perform.

Their past performances include dancing for Purple Parade for 6 years in a row to date, True Colours Festival, the aforementioned Deaffest, as well as numerous collaborations with counterparts ranging from UK to Japan.

Difficulties in dancing

According to an interview with a-list.sg, the dancers speak up about their specific challenges in dance.

Details such as synchronising moves can become challenging, and dancers often have to tap into their sense of sight to take note of the timings of various dancers.

Inspirational

The very existence and success of Redeafination is testimony to the amount of hard work the dancers put in to overcome their specific challenges.

No matter how steep the climb, there is always a way to get to the top.

As Redeafination dancer, Shariffah aptly puts:

There were a lot of deaf actors, DJs and rappers and they made me realise that I can be who I want to be as long as I don’t give up on myself and my dreams. They motivated me to work even harder and inspired me to be a better person.

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When Will We Include Persons with Autism in our “Inclusive” Society?

“I want my seat… I want my seat I want my seat I want my seat.. I WANT MY SEAT!”

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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?

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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.

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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

A scene from Pang’s 2016 production (“Falling”) about autism.

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.

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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.

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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

Find out more about what you can do to fight the issue here! You can also learn more on-the-go by following Autism Network Singapore’s social media platforms.