Message from Wesley Loh of wesleyadvocate.blogspot.com:
Greetings! I am glad to be part of the pioneer batch of autistics to run and co-lead this inaugural autistic-led network in Singapore.
I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 18 which was a defining episode of my life, lifting the burden of wondering why I was the way I was with all my social awkwardness, social skills impairment, clumsiness, being the oddball etc.
Ever since coming to the autism community in 2017, I felt belonged and accepted and often want to be a voice for my autistic tribe. I wish to play a part in changing people’s perceptions and paradigms about us through educating them and showing them through, for example, my ability to think intellectually, converse etc., some of which is perceived by others that autistics are incapable/unable to do. I wish to contribute by being actively involved in autism education (educating others on it), participating in discussions on policies that affect us, and other similar activities/events and initiatives.
I can identify with challenges and unusual personalities that other autistic adults face, just like myself. I naturally feel for & with my autistic peers and younger counterparts because of my own experiences thus my heart yearns to befriend them, which is also for my own emotional needs for belonging and acceptance as well.
I also wish to encourage more autistics to not only come together as a band of friends and find much goodness and richness in our common bond, but also step up to speak up, advocate, be a voice for the autistics, and to groom ourselves and the younger generation to be autistic leaders. For “Alone we can do so little, Together we can do so much” (Helen Keller)
That is why I am motivated to co-lead this initiative. To connect with like-minded people, to bring the community together, to love/embrace each other as our own. To have a safe environment where we can be ourselves.
As a WACS co-founder, I wish to widen our outreach so that more autistics, caregivers, professionals, friends of autistics, friends of caregivers and other stakeholders can join hands to bless others and be blessed by others. WACS provides a safe space for like-minded people to come together and for autistics to improve ourselves for our own good and personal growth. I also wish to contribute my views on the articles and issues others share. As we explore the depths of autism and living with it and the many lives touched by it, I hope we find much richness and goodness in our common bond.
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members, a heart of grace and a soul generated by love” (Coretta Scott King)
“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about” (Margaret J. Wheatley)
Message from Sia Sin Wei:
I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was Primary 6 and with HFA previously. I went through mainstream education previously – with my last degree in Life Sciences at NUS. I am currently employed in science education at Pathlight School, where I assist teachers in developing lesson materials. Outside of work, I am active in the local nature community, in which I am mostly involved in a volunteer group focusing on primates – where I specialise in contributing to research through observing monkeys, creating content for science communication and outreaching to the public. I always aim to see how I can contribute more to the nature community and monetise my interest there.
A WACS admin needs to ensure that the chat groups under our command remain a safe space for other autistics to talk and discuss the issues at hand. As such, an admin needs to have the integrity and character to intervene if necessary if the chat is going in an undesirable direction or to manage interpersonal relations between participants. An admin is also the face of WACS, thus he needs to deal with requests from participants. An admin needs to be competent in whatever he does, for we are the ambassadors for the autism community to show an increasingly sceptical neurotypical world that autistics do not have to be limited to low wage jobs.
I aim to show that autistics can contribute to their community, not just within ourselves but for the wider community both neurotypical and neuroatypical for it is vital for us to be competent if we want to be thought of by neurotypicals as valuable and equal partners. Competence is our ticket to having more choices in life for our vocation and avocation. I also aim through WACS, provide an accessible and safe space for autistics to discuss their scientific interests and share resources in an amicable and friendly manner. Science and its communication need to be inclusive of every stakeholder, no matter your neurotype.
Message from “Professor 86”:
Greetings! I am one of the administrators of the ‘Maths, Stats, Topology’ group and the ‘Language & Semantics’ group.
I was diagnosed with autism at nearly 17 years old. I am an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in mathematics. My goal is to complete a PhD and become a mathematician.
Even though I am a relatively new member to the autistic community, I endeavour to contribute my knowledge in the WhatsApp Autism Community Singapore (WACS) groups and offer support to group members. I can also extend a helping hand and lend a listening ear to autistic people, young or old.
I believe that many autistic people can lead independent lives, land successful careers and enter into romantic relationships, and we are here to invalidate myths that we are incapable of doing all these.
In this hostile world that we live in, we face countless obstacles and challenges in our lives but we shall remain undeterred, steadfast and unwavering. The fact that many of us are contributing to the community and working or studying stands as living evidence that autistics have a lot of tenacity, resilience, and perseverance.
I sincerely hope autistics and their caregivers realise that an autism diagnosis is not the end — it is merely the beginning of a journey into a supportive, caring and understanding community that provides mutual support for one another, whether in times of crisis or peace.
Message from Marcus Tio:
Welcome to the WhatsApp Autism Community Singapore (WACS)! My name is Marcus. I am an autistic adult, currently working as a care associate. I was diagnosed with autism when I was five years old. I conquered the challenges by undergoing occupational therapy to enhance my social and motor skills.
I went through mainstream education all the way because SPED schools for autism. Pathlight did not exist when I started primary school. Even after Pathlight was established, I did not have to transfer there as I was able to cope with the learning environment in mainstream schools. I was bullied from Primary 2 to Secondary 2, but I did not let the bullying affect my motivation to study hard. I eventually made it to NUS, where I majored in Chemistry and graduated with Honours (Distinction).
I got to know a few autistics who are now part of this chat network through various means, like in school or through events organised by SG Enable like the career and training fair. We decided to form a group chat for autistic individuals as we wished to reach out to a large pool of autistics and have a platform for us to interact. We were later joined by parents of autistics, professionals in the autism field and individuals interested in autism, and we also diversified into around 50 group chats with a wide variety of topics, ranging from areas of concern like education and employment to topics of interest like science and entertainment.
Many participants have benefitted from our chat network through what we have shared, like our personal experiences. For example, when I shared my bullying experience in school, many parents realised that their children who were bullied in school were not alone, and when I shared about how I went from obtaining an average score in my PSLE to making it to a local university, many parents had a glimmer of hope that their children who were underperforming academically might eventually excel in their studies.
Many participants have also benefitted from the information we shared that was relevant to the group chats in question. For example, in the employment group chat, I shared about lesser-known organisations that helped autistics in their employability, like Trampolene and Inclus, which helped autistics and parents of autistics have more channels to turn to besides E2C, a well-known programme under Autism Resource Centre (ARC).
I also hope to attain a high-flying career in the manufacturing sector. As a WACS administrator, I plan to be a role model for other autistic people.
As autistic people go through transitions in life, they need to prepare themselves for the real world. I offer counsel on how to excel academically and choose the academic routes, based on my story about how I dealt with academia, including going for tuition. I also hope to advocate inclusion for autistic people and share with them stories about how I was bullied in primary school and lower secondary to let them know that they are not alone because bullying is a common problem among us.
Finally, I wish to let them know that never giving up and constantly looking for ways to improve themselves is the key to performing well in their studies, career and social life by sharing how I did it, as well as give them moral support to press on regardless of the obstacles that they face in life.
Message from Nigel Ng:
I was diagnosed with autism when I was 5 years old. I had learning difficulties and was unable to follow through the lessons in kindergarten, therefore my mum decided to enrol me in ARC for gross motor skills and speech therapy sessions when I started Primary One in a mainstream primary school. I attended the sessions weekly until I was in Primary Three. These sessions helped me improve in my academics as I was able to focus better in class and I also found it easier to make friends with my classmates later on.
However, I had also experienced bullying from Primary Three to Secondary Three in various ways. Although I felt upset and angry about being bullied by my peers back then, I still persevered in my academics and maintained a positive mindset by enriching my school life through CCAs and social interactions with my friends. Eventually, I passed my O & A Levels with flying colours and made it to NUS where I majored in Life sciences, right after I completed my A-Levels as I was exempted from National Service. Currently, I have graduated from NUS with Honours in Life Sciences and am working as a Management Support Officer in a government agency.
When I was still studying in NUS, I got to know several autistics through various means such as attending the SG Enable career fairs and during my internship at Trampolene in 2018. Subsequently, we formed a small group consisting of autistic individuals from tertiary institutes as well as parents of autistic children and professionals working in organisations helping people with disabilities.
As a WACS administrator, I have helped to contribute to the discussions in various chat groups ranging from Science and Technology to Advocacy and Inclusion by providing real-life examples that are relevant to these topics. I also want to help autistics overcome their challenges such as being bullied in school by providing them good advice and comforting them to encourage them to persevere.
I understand that as a WACS administrator, I have to ensure a safe environment for all participants to discuss and promote awareness of the autism situation in Singapore by sharing public information about our network and services available that can provide the support that they need. I aspire to achieve a successful career in biomedical research and set a good example for other autistics to follow.
As autistic individuals transition into adulthood, it is necessary for them to be equipped with life skills. I aim to help autistic individuals and their parents by providing sound advice on academic options and how to excel in their subjects, using my personal experience on how I cope with my studies which include having extra time. I also want to promote inclusion for autistic individuals and help them get over setbacks e.g. being bullied by classmates which are commonly faced by autistic students. Last but not least, I want to show them that having a positive attitude is important for achieving success in academics, career and social life by sharing my achievements and giving them encouragement to persevere.
Message from Mark Tan:
I went into mainstream education. In Primary 4, I joined the Autism Resource Centre. For secondary school, I chose to join Pathlight. Then I went to Polytechnic and to serve my National Service. When I told my friends/colleagues about my autism, there were helpful and very understanding of my situation. I want to help get other people to understand and be more aware of people with disabilities, including autism.
Message from Eric of iautistic.com:
Thank you for choosing to participate in the first autistic-led social networking initiative in Singapore. This is our baby step towards living the spirit of “Nothing About Us Without Us”.
We know that we will be judged on our first try. For the sake of being taken seriously in our future advocacy work, we must succeed. This is why I decided to help lead the effort despite my busy schedule. As Singapore’s first autistic autism advocate, I do not wish to see the new generation of autistics lose hope like what happened to me when I started on my autism work alone in 2002.
This network is an example of an equal partnership of both autistics and caregivers – a prototype demonstrating the concept of Inclusive Equality. This is a direct challenge to the mindset that sees adult autistics as immature people unworthy of respect and incapable of determining their own future. This is also a direct challenge to the mindset that sees autism as a disorder and autistics as deficient people who need to have all their differences eradicated.
WACS aims to create a safe and professionally operated space to serve the strategic and social needs of the autism community. Within this safe space, adult autistics not only get the opportunity to participate as equals but also to stand up gently but firmly for themselves against those who disrespect and oppress them. We welcome caregivers, autism professionals, organisation representatives and anyone else who believe in empowering autistics to realise their true potential.
WACS is also a platform for attracting and training like-minded autistics to develop leadership qualities and become role models for the autistic community. While serving the autism community, the autistic administrators are exposed to a wide diversity of people with different needs, intentions and behaviours. Rules need to be interpreted and amended. Difficult situations arise. Personalities clash. Work needs to be divided fairly and efficiently.
As it successfully navigates the complex maze, the team will hopefully birth Asia’s first autistic-led organisation that will champion the concept of Inclusive Equality to all disadvantaged people.
With the establishment of this network, I am glad to say that we have delivered on our first installment of change. The journey is still long and there are still many struggles, but we will continue to push on. I hereby welcome you to WACS, the seed of a new movement that will eventually change the world!