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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spectres

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Today, those old familiars, you know, those ghostly wisps of Artaud and Wagner, my goodly pals that seem to follow me around and suck me into merry gyrations of bizarre comedic-tragic theatrics? Well, they paid a nice little surprise visit once again, of all times, during my TEDx speech. Continue reading

Autistic Thriving

 

“How can autistic and non-autistic people grow and thrive, not despite but because of the unique features of autism? And what can society learn from autistic persons?”

Lucy and I shall be at TEDx Pickering Street this Saturday 4 August 2018, talking about autism and neurodiversity. Come join us!

…….

[Autistic Thriving – Dr. Dawn-Joy Leong]
There is a great deal of ‘awareness’ these days about Autism – mainly from non-autistic observations. However, where are the Actually Autistic voices in this cacophony of opinions and interpretations? What is it like to be autistic? Discover how Dawn learns to thrive within her autistic ecology, not despite but because of her autism.
Grab your tickets here: https://tedxpsthrive.peatix.com/
.
[自闭世界的生意盎然]
自闭症在当下取得了广泛的关注,只不过这些观察结果都是从非自闭症患者角度获得的。可是抛开这些不和谐的观点和解释,我们从何听到自闭症患者的真实发声?作为一个自闭症患者是什么样子?在这场演讲中,Dawn会向我们分享她是如何在患有自闭症的情况下茁壮成长。

empathy overload

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I read this article about dogs and expressions of empathy, and my thoughts immediately linked to the empathy overload that many autistics report experiencing – feeling so much of the other person’s pain that one is frozen or implodes and unable to react in a way that displays gestures of comforting or soothing to the other person in distress. This gives rise to the misunderstanding by normative brains as the autistic person lacking empathy. (No outward display of huggy-kissy-aw-you-poor-baby stuff that non-autistics seem to expect and perceive as having empathy.)

This passage jumped out at me:

“During the task, the researchers measured the dogs’ stress levels. Sanford said dogs who were able to push through the door to “rescue” their owners showed less stress, meaning they were upset by the crying, but not too upset to take action. As for the dogs who didn’t push open the door, it wasn’t because they didn’t care — it seemed they cared too much. Those dogs showed the most stress and were too troubled by the crying to do anything, Sanford said.”

‘Taking on the mantle of pain’ so to speak. Lucy seems to do this when I have had meltdowns – she freezes and just stares at me – and somehow, because of this, I manage to self-soothe enough to get out of my meltdown state. I am brought back into the moment by her presence and driven by my empathy for her empathy to resolve my pain reaction, simply because I do not want to see her suffer from my suffering. Does that make sense? Dogs can teach us so much about our humanity.

Autism, masking and ageing. A personal view.

No better words than these. Thank you once again, Sonia! xo

The other side

Sonia Sketchng for Spirit of Beehive Recently at work in my studio – exploring images of childhood in film.

This post  is about both ageing and masking. Masking can be a difficult subject as some autistics can’t mask their autism, and those of us who can often wish we didn’t have to, and yet we may depend on masking to get by. Masking overall is not really a choice though in some circumstances we can chose to unmask ourselves. We may also just be unmasked by circumstances – and this can be deeply confusing and humiliating. It is both a relative privilege and a survival strategy. Yet however important masking can be in mediating aspects of autistic challenge in neuro-normative spaces it is also pernicious in it’s effects on us.

Revealing autism and unmasking are not entirely the same thing in my view – and this is worth pointing out. One of the difficulties we face…

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minutiae

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I love food. I love the aromas, textures, tastes, colours and visual compositions, not just the way food is presented, but the actual patterns and formations. Wrinkly crinkly chicken skin, taught and shiny tomato skin, curly edges of lettuce leaves, or scattered sesame seeds, food is endlessly fascinating to me in a multi sensory way.

Lately, I’ve been particularly enjoying the tiny details in everything I eat. Apart from spending time with my beloved Lucy, food, and all it encompasses – the sensory fullness and the activity –  is an excellent relief for stress and anxiety. My nifty little Fujifilm X100T (gifted to me by a very good friend) is fabulous for street photography, and not really the camera for portraits or close-ups of little things, but it’s a challenge that I welcome – with some hits and misses, and a great deal of satisfaction and fun.

the dilemma of trauma

 

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One week of excruciating physical pain. Stress reaction. A serious one. I was caught by surprise this time, I didn’t expect my body to react so viciously.

I was physically assaulted last Sunday. By someone I know. The person has admitted to me it was a psychotic episode. I am psychologically and emotionally intact, but my physical body has reacted fiercely from the traumatic shock.

Last Sunday, I attended a theatre performance. I was standing outside the theatre, in a basement lobby teeming with chattering voices bouncing off pristine white walls, waiting for the show to begin, when a pre-show drama literally exploded in my face. Continue reading