Giving is getting: the social ‘cure’ for autism (the power dynamics exposed).

If you read only one thing this weekend, read this!

“The truth is that the current neurological hegemony practices daily micro-aggressions in which autistic people are not welcomed. They’re also barred from giving in the mainstream of life.

Some of us experience just enough welcome (important to acknowledge a relative privilege) and gain the tools with which to carve a niche. But too many don’t. Every human needs a baseline of welcome, and access to the power of giving.”

The other side

Sonia Boué, artist performance image. Sonia Boué – process image for a forthcoming performance piece.

I acknowledge my privilege – I am enabled to give in my art practice. How many autistics are excluded? Process image for a forthcoming performance piece. 

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Giving is getting.

Yes – I’m talking power dynamics and socially embedded disadvantage.

My thoughts flow from a series of encounters.  Most notably a comment about ‘functional’ language in autism. Neuro-normative culture misinterprets autistic expression.  It tends to frame what is considered  ‘functional’ through the lens of its own (culturally dominant) social orientation.

Dominant cultures tend to make pathology of what they perceive as ‘other’. For example, not recognising language acquisition on its own (collecting and repeating words) as functional because it seems to serve no obvious ‘social’ purpose.

Neuro-normative hegemony has it that a child of a certain age ‘should’ talk about their day, their friends, and so on.  Within this framework of understanding, building…

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love me

 

An old friend. Probably the only one left from that era of innocence. A little petite dinner. A small humble celebration. Love. No need for big glamorous party. I don’t want many many flittering fluttering bits flying around my sphere, making me nauseous and giddy. Happy with just one old friend, a takeaway meal, and two mini little cakes for dessert – to celebrate my very obscure arrival on earth.

 

Love me, or leave me. Simple as that. Many have left, others have entered the clement spaces. New and old, a blended grace. And there is now Lucy Like-a-Charm. I am content.

 

happy birthday Bunny

Yesterday was my birthday. 53 years ago on this day, the Autistic Bunny was introduced into the soggy boggy sparkly world.

53 years later, still trundling along but such a difference it makes, with a beloved companion, the most precious of all life’s gifts. A Gift from Cosmic Heaven.

How did we spend this day? Continue reading

songs

100T5358-lucy-z

I am listening to the gentle rise and fall of Lucy’s breath, her warm scent wrapping around me like a soft blanket of wellness – a song in itself so masterful in grace and pulchritude that it cannot be of human construction.

For some time now, I have been feeling a deep longing to return to music. A Facebook friend posted some guitar arrangements he did and listening to them brought me back to my own songs from a very distant time and place. Looking back, it was as if I was lost and meandering my way through like an Alice inside a dreamscape – a blend between Salvador Dali and Kandinsky, with the intermittent clarity of Paul Klee. Entrapped and enslaved by malevolent Other, music was my only pathway to salvation of Self.

I revisited these old songs on my SoundCloud page tonight, and Lucy doesn’t seem to mind at all. It feels like a strangely sweet layering, listening to these sounds and enunciations swirling above Lucy’s comforting breathing in and out, a rhythmic anchor that I did not have at the time, but was searching for. It took 12 years for me to find my way to Lucy. Now, I think I am slowly finding my way back to music again.

vivification

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Colour, smell and clever arrangement make food more inviting, often enhancing the actual taste itself. Texture also plays a big part. Crunchiness can add a delightfully cheery  dash to even the most ordinary of foods. Of course, the chemical transformations that occur when foods are cooked in certain ways and combined never cease to fascinate.

Food has become more an everyday indulgence than a lively challenge since returning to home ground. In many ways, I miss the latter days, though I have not ceased being grateful and appreciative for each morsel I imbibe. Perhaps the weather here – the humidity – makes everything taste less defined, and having such abundance has dampened the enthusiasm of discovery or provocation. I also cook a lot less than before, as cooked food is cheap and readily available here in Singapore, and my dear foodie-chef brother-in-law either takes us to new places on investigation missions, or he brings his expert professional culinary skills to our table at home.

I do still like to notice the little tiny interplay of colour, tonality, texture, smell and the way each component communicates with the other, like small musical pieces or miniature dances unfolding inside my bowls, plates and dishes. Cutlery interacting with these morsels form a personal and even intense connectivity and communication, sometimes intimate in isolation, and other times part of a larger conversation with the human sensory realm.

It’s Friday yet again. I do miss our weekend noshments in Paddington. There was an aura of preciousness and bonhomie that remains unique to that particular juxtaposition of company, time, place, space and situation – an what conversation! There can be no replication.

lucy+art+food

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What do a black Greyhound, multi-art expression, and food have in common?

They are all close to this Autistic Bunny’s heart.

Autism advocacy. Disability advocacy. Trying to throw open the windows of tightly closed minds. Mistaken as threat. Tokenised and patronised. Writhing and spinning round and round, ploughing the miry fields of repetitive human social-political gyrations. Trudging through the cesspools of normativity. Wiping away the spit of jealous competition, meandering through lies and subterfuge. The burden of participation in humanity’s Theatre of Absurdity can wear the trembling soul down, and the spirit is too easily crushed and fragmented under pounding cacophony of noisome people-ing.

Continue reading

haunted

I am not at all superstitious, so this is, to me, rather hilarious. I am talking about the ‘spirits’ that have been lurking and stalking me lately: Antonin Artaud and Richard Wagner in clown outfits no less. Right, yes, I have a vivid imagination, and I do have some really bizarre dreams too, but this coincidence is ridiculous.

Tech-Fail again!!!! I am talking about yesterday’s groundbreaking super amazing event that a group of us managed to conjure up and bring in a full house as a bonus.

Disability Led Practices 2018 copy

We belong to a Facebook group interested in the subject of disability studies. Someone posted an advertisement for a story telling workshop charging $200 to teach disabled folk how to tell their own stories. Some of us remarked that they shouldn’t charge so much, then I jokingly said that we could create our own event about disability and our stories, one suggestion led to another and it snowballed into a real ‘thing’. There was a time constraint, one of us needs to head back to Chicago to continue his PhD study when term starts again, so we had to make our event happen before he leaves. I was mired in the preparations for TEDx and didn’t have time to really pitch in with solid work (read about the TEDx fiasco here). I reached out for help from the Disabled People’s Association and as always they were happy to support us. All we needed was a venue – which took some time to secure. Finally, less than two weeks before our intended event, one of the team managed to wrangle a freebie from the Singapore University of Social Sciences. Phew! With that little time left for publicity, I wondered if anyone would attend. We were charging $10 per person to help pay for various things like sign language interpreters and a note taker, refreshments etc. Nail-bitingly scary, but guess what, Full House!!

Anyway, back to my comedy with those two guys, Artaud and Wagner.

AV all went perfectly fine for the other four speakers, but when it came to my turn (I was doing the wrapping up), midway through, the eerie stuff returned. My slides won’t show, the videos won’t play and the screen went fuzzy and psychedelic – very trippy! Well, it was yet another opportunity to tell the audience my funny story about what went down at TEDx. This time, however, I was not at all irritated or annoyed. The team member manning the technical equipment is not a professional, and I could see the poor chap trying valiantly to restore some order to the screen. It was actually funny, unlike my TEDx experience. Why? Because of expectations and the frame within which each event occurred. TEDx prides itself as a professional event, I put myself through months of preparation and regular rehearsals at my own expense, I also forked out good money to bring Lucy and myself to the tech rehearsal the night before, and they were supposed to have a professional crew looking after the technical side of things. So, microphone failure in the middle of my speech, playing the wrong videos, losing my videos, and then playing the correct video without sound – these mistakes, to me, are unprofessional and inexcusable. But yesterday’s event was a casual one, put together by non-professionals, just like-minded people sharing a common passion, each of us pitching in however we could. Very difference scenario, don’t you think?

It had to be me… I can hear myself singing that song in my head even now. I blame it on Artaud and Wagner. They do seem to follow me around. Never a dull moment, it seems. My life is a grand theatre of strange juxtapositions.

Yesterday, we had great fun. We learned from one another. We shared our stories to at least 55 people in that room. I was inspired by my friends to try harder to make everything more accessible to people with different disabilities from mine. To think outside of my own bubble. And I hope we collectively inspired others in the room to do so too.

“Presume Competence! It is not hard to do!” This phrase is quoted from my TEDx speech. It will be something I keep in mind henceforth.

We are now looking forward to our next event.

Disability Leadership has begun in Singapore! At last. We didn’t wait for organisations and the establishment to do it for us – I doubt if they ever would, despite talking endlessly about “inclusion” – we did this ourselves. We – disabled folk and allies – are proud of ourselves. And thankful to those who support us. Each and every person who turned up yesterday – Thank You!

P.S. Here is what I had prepared to speak on yesterday, my speaker’s notes. I’ve added some extra videos for a bonus 🙂

Autistic Thriving @ TEDx

Unedited. Undisturbed. Unsullied. With the correct videos too! Check out my TEDx speech here 🙂

Dawn-joy Leong

This is the complete unedited script of my TEDx speech, delivered today amidst a flurry of technical failures and farcical-comedic twists. (Read about it here.)

AUTISTIC THRIVING
Dawn-joy Leong
4 August 2018
TEDx Pickering Street
Singapore

~

I dance,
Because
I cannot walk,
The ground,
It is too strange.
I must count:
One, two,
One, two, three!

Autistic people are given many different labels by the non-autistic world. One of them is ‘clumsy,’ and by that measure, I suppose I am – it is a conscious effort for me to walk in a straight line, navigate bumpy surfaces, and stroll and chat at the same time. Yet, how does ‘clumsiness’ explain the ability to dance? When there is music, my body becomes freed from the tyranny of the walk, and the ground doesn’t seem so daunting anymore.

Another description that autistic people cringe at is that we “suffer…

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