Rendang (Be)Aware!


Crispy Chicken is KFC, no Rendang!

There’s a big storm in a cooking pot these days, huge outcry over the ignorant judging of a Malaysian dish by a non-Malaysian. So, what’s in a rendang? Plenty. Especially when judged by some self-styled ‘expert’ on a cooking show who has no idea at all what rendang is. Thus, all hell breaks loose. And rightfully so. We are guarding our cultural heritage after all.

Here’s the British High Commissioner in Malaysia weighing in on the matter, defending the delicious not-supposed-to-be-crispy dish.

However, why is it that Autism is being bandied about by non-autistic self-styled ‘experts’ without authentic Actually Autistic voices writing the libretto, and that is deemed ok?

Does this mean that Rendang Awareness is more genuine than Autism Awareness / AutismAcceptance? 




I can literally hear it, the crunching, fragments rubbing against one another, breaking, jostling, resisting until they break yet again into smaller and smaller composites. The soul is an amazing, elastic creature, yet so fragile in its dichotomous existence. Crushed, overridden, derided, mocked, flung from one extreme to another, the dissonant chromaticism so excruciating, a wordless silent scream issues forth, travelling through time and space into the vast nothingness, pain with an ominous fermata riding mercilessly atop. Continue reading



Autism Awareness Month is going to sweep over us again, like a nauseating sludge – engulfing, choking, terrorising.

Awareness? Just like the cockroach in the room that one becomes aware of, that’s as far as it goes, this ‘awareness’ exercise. And autistic persons are being treated accordingly.

Parents, Siblings, Teachers, Peers, Autism Organisations… the list goes on… and round and round in dizzying concentric circles…

You write books detailing my vulnerabilities, my meltdowns, telling the world how terribly inept I am, using my dirt and mess as stark contrasting juxtaposition to your shining, glittery ‘suffering’. You can be you, this is you, this is how you deal with things, this is how you talk, this is how you react, this is just what is, so take it or leave it, but I cannot be me, because you are feeding me, housing me, and so you own my existence.

You kill me, it is murder, but because I am autistic, you become a hero instead, and the media is in a pity-party frenzy, not for me, but for you.

Do I even realise how stressed you are, having to care for my every need? Oh yes, I do. I am aware of much more than you care to even know about me. But what I think and how I feel are not at all important to you.

When autistic people protest, you tell us: Stop the drama!

When I try to explain myself to you, you tell me: Stop arguing!

When autistic people ask to be paid for work done, you tell us: Stop making demands, we ought to be grateful that you are going to great lengths to organise events on our behalf!

When I try to share my hopes and dreams, you mock me: Stop being ridiculous! You can’t even take care of yourself, what are you talking about?

Is my voice so broken? Are my words so devoid of sense? Is my Beingness so utterly despicable or laughable that you must use puzzle pieces to symbolise me? Or are you just not wanting to know my thoughts, not interested at all in who I am, because YOU are all there is and I simply should not exist? Without you, I am nothing. I cannot tie my own shoelaces. I cannot earn enough money to feed myself. Or… I cannot even feed myself. So I have nothing valuable to say. It is Autism Awareness Month, and you are making all the awareness on my behalf.

Cockroach in the Room. I am already much aware that you are aware of me. Awareness is a behemoth – overwhelming, overpowering, tyrannical – no room for negotiation, not even gentle co-existence. The Autistic is persona non grata. Deemed useless, hapless in the swirling vortex of Awareness.

Bring out the cockroach spray. Get the brooms ready.

We do not need more awareness, really, do we? We already are your filthy little cockroaches in the pristine normative room. And you are swatting and spraying at us every single day anyway. Let’s just do away with the pretext, shall we? Scrap Autism Awareness Month. We’ve been aware of your awareness for a very long time already.


Yesterday, I tried valiantly, and with great determination, to return a faulty dishwasher. The person on the other end remained stolid. It was I, not the dishwasher, that was the anathema, the malfunctioning entity. There was much spewing of verbiage completely irrelevant to my pleas, throwing of sparkly dust hither-thither and blowing of bizarre smelling fumes into my face. Exhausted and worn out to the very crisp core, I finally threw in the proverbial towel, recognising this as an exercise of futility.  I threw out the dishwasher. It now sits, sad and forlorn, in the junk heap. I swear, when I walked past this morning, I saw a malevolent snigger painted across its glass face.

This morning, Lucy woke me up at 6am, asking to be taken outside for our morning walky. Without her, I am not sure I would have the strength to get out of bed, even though sleep, most of the time, is pretty much like the spawn from a trashy, poorly written novel and an elusive goblet of sweet wine.

My eyes hurt. A stabbing pain. My skull throbs. A vice across the front squeezing intermittently. My brain is screeching a high pitched, dehydrated and incomprehensible sprechstimme.

It’s still April. Yes, I did check.

This Autism Awareness thingy, and the chorus of dissent from the actually Autistic community (justified and worthy of support), has already kicked a deep dent into my fragile construction of Clement Space.

Today, I just want to celebrate April as Adopt a Greyhound Month. Please.

Here, I present to you, Lucy Like-a-Charm in Sonorous Repose. A collection of photos I created in 2015, about her innate ability to identify, take possession of, and craft intimate spaces of comfort and calm, wherever she may go. A skill I very much want to learn.

Lucy Like-a-Charm in Sonorous Repose 2015

Available as limited edition prints. Enquiries welcome.

Greyhounds are such pulchritudinous creatures. Adopt a Greyhound this April! Bring back beauty into your life, Oh, Weary Soul!

(Or, perhaps you might want to bring one of these limited edition prints into your home? It would help an Autistic Bunny and her Greyhound Angel to procure much needed rations for survival of April BlahBlah Month!)

Autism Acceptance?


Autism MeetUp 2016, UNSW Art & Design

Community service announcement:

Dear organisations jumping on the Autism Bandwagon. You really need to do better than “everyone else” if you wish to win the trust and confidence of Actually Autistic people. That is IF you truly wish to be inclusive (as you so claim) and learn about intrinsic autistic modalities and paradigms, in order to properly support autistic people in respectful ways. This is the ‘homework’ you need to do BEFORE asking autistic people to do freebie work for your ’cause’. Show us that you are worthy of our efforts. Any other is at best mere tokenism, and at worst exploitation. Add to that, spreading harmful misinformation.

#actuallyautistic #autismacceptance #nothingaboutuswithoutus

Continue reading

Embracing Autism

My contribution to Embracing Autism Month – enough (misdirected) ‘awareness’ and moving beyond mere ‘acceptance’… how about we begin to embrace autism?

Thank you, Martin Guinness of Guinness Entertainment, for making this video!

Rough Transcript (by me):

My name is Dawn-joy. I am autistic. I was diagnosed in my early forties – I am fifty now. Living and coping with life in general has been the hugest challenge for me. Being autistic is not in itself a huge challenge, but being autistic and coping with living in a social system, a spatially designed system, that is not innate and often not kind towards innate autistic function, has been the greatest challenge in my life. Continue reading

awareness & acceptance


Day 4 of Autism Acceptance Month. A thought from The Bunny:

I spotted this in my Facebook feed today. This quote is true to a certain extent, but, for me, it isn’t really about boredom per se. Actually, I myself most likely come across as utterly boring to many people anyway, since my idea of fun is contrary to theirs.

It’s more that there is so much that is wonderful going on in my mind, so many things I am thinking about that captivate me that I wish to pursue, or fascinating solitary activities I want to embark upon, and at the same time, so many inexplicable obstacles to navigate and challenges to overcome, that being with people in a purely social situation interrupts the process of weaving this rich tapestry and thus becomes an acute agony, frittering away precious time and energy. Yes, I’d rather be experimenting with a piece of old granny crochet at home, seated on the soft comfy cushion, Lucy by my side, her smell wrapped around my senses, counting the stitches, listening to the rhythmic repetition and watching the progress of each loop and stitch, watching an old video or humming along with Glenn Gould playing Bach, than chatting in a cafe. The latter is a necessity of functioning in the wider world, a payback act of gratitude to those who have been good to me, but the former is sheer pleasure and comfort in my elemental Beingness. Continue reading

April is Autism Awareness Month!

anymore (2010) by Dawn-joy Leong *copyright*

Autism Awareness Month. Here we are again. How much has my own sphere changed since? Here are a recollection, and my personal views on the subject.

I remember attending the event on 2 April last year (2011) in my home country. It was held at a school supposed to have been specially built for autistic children. The facilities were impressive, well to any person without hypersensitivity, that is, but my own senses immediately felt the triggers as soon as I entered. The auditorium featured blinding fluorescent lights flickering almost violently. The sound system was set to full blast, with huge speakers placed on tripods on the floor, just next to the audience. As I entered, I felt as if my senses were under siege. The lights made me dizzy, the smells from the bodies around made me feel nauseous (obviously most people hadn’t showered, it was early in the morning and the tropical heat and humidity made it all the worse), and the buzz from the audience (parents and relatives of autistic children) all talking at once, blending with the sound system which was pounding out horrible lowbrow music, created a terrifying soundscape that made my head pound with pain. Autism Awareness, indeed! I wonder why nobody bothered to design this school with consideration for the sensory needs of the children? Some of them, I am sure, would have hypersensitivity, rather than hyposensitivity.

Then the address. I was saddened and somewhat disappointed, but strangely not very surprised. Nobody talked about the children’s intimate, personal, emotional needs. Nobody spoke about sensory issues. It was all about making the children ‘normal’, how to mainstream them into the educational system, what facilities were available to put them into in the future so they do not become a nuisance or burden to society at large etc. The ‘musical’ performances put up to entertain the VIPs and parents seemed more to me about turning them into song and dance monkeys, just like they do in mainstream schools. However, in the latter case, perhaps the kids really do enjoy the song and dance routines, and most (autistic or not) have little idea about the quality of these routines created by adults with very bad taste or just poor qualifications. I am sure some of the autistic children put up on stage on display (yes that was how I felt about it) did enjoy the routine to a certain extent, but it didn’t seem universal to me. I saw confused faces, I saw hesitation, I saw fear, and I saw coercion. Is this what music, dance, performance is all about? Is this how the arts are employed here? Creating poor quality vaudeville routines? My head began to pound even more. My heart began to race too, with anger or from sensory overload, I couldn’t tell the difference anymore.

I sat in a corner at the back, I couldn’t bear being near the smelly, noisy crowd. I was told I couldn’t sit there as it was reserved for the children performing. I said, sorry I am not moving, I cannot stand the smell of the crowd. The person (possibly a teacher) looked shocked and left me alone, probably never encountered anyone so frank and blunt before, and definitely did not seem sympathetic. She scuttled away without hearing the end of my sentence, that indicated to me that she let me stay put only because she was intimidated by me. Nothing more, and nothing less. The children scheduled to perform streamed in. I observed the interactions. Many times, I witnessed the teachers holding up a child’s face, staring the child in the eye while the child tried to avoid eye contact, and putting a finger up very close to his/her face, and threateningly say in a low hissing voice, “Stop this bad behavior right now!” For god’s sake, the child, from what I could see, was merely fidgeting because he/she was plain bored. Any child would in a situation like that, but with the sensory onslaught that was going on (we were just next to the horribly loud speakers), how could the teachers expect a hypersensitive and/or autistic child to stay quiet? Not even a neurotypical child could do that!

At the end of the grueling, sensory punishing event, there was a question and answer forum. Parents asked about schooling after grade school. Sorry, no facilities after age 12. Parents asked about themselves, mostly, how the government could help them to make life easier for them, because they had abnormal children. That was the general vibe I was getting. Not a single parent stood up to ask about parent-training on how to better understand their children, the condition and their needs! Shocking, but true. Then I stood up to ask a question. I identified myself as an adult with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, about to embark on a Ph.D programme. I joked, “We do grow up, you know!” I heard one person begin to applaud, but that was snuffed out by an uncomfortable silence from the hundreds of others. I saw shocked faces. I thought to myself, “My dears, so you never thought your children would grow up?” I asked the panel, “Do you have any representation from adult autistic people when you plan and devise your policies for special autism education and facilities?” The panel returned a look of utter incomprehension. I suppose they had never thought that adult autistics could be capable of giving their views on lofty things like policies, education and facilities? One of the panel members tried to answer, but her answer showed utter lack of understanding of my simple question. “Do you mean to ask if we have facilities to help autistic adults? I am sorry, but not at this moment, we do not. We are working on it.”

Duh? I had to repeat myself once more. No, my question is about consulting adult autistics about the policies that affect them directly. That did it. Or rather, undid it. Shockwaves rippled through the room, I could literally feel the waves bouncing on my skin, and a low buzzing murmur permeated the auditorium. Nobody had even heard about such a thing, apparently. They then asked me to write my email address and phone number on a grubby piece of paper – the person dispatched to approach me said someone in the panel (consisting of key people in Education and Disability Services) wanted to contact me. As I was leaving, a representative of the autism parents’ association came running out to greet me. He too asked me for my contact details, and he handed me his card. He said the parents’ association would like me to address them some time. I replied that I would be most happy to do so. I dutifully sent him an email when I arrived home, to establish contact. All that happened a year ago. And nothing came of it.

So, here we are again, one year later, Autism Awareness Month 2012. How aware do we really want to be? Are autistic people the only people who truly want to be aware of this condition? After all, we have vested interest, don’t we? Are the only voices speaking out those with autism, the so-called higher functioning ones who are able to verbalize and tell the rest of the world about our existence? Of course, we have the parents who do truly love their autistic children in an encompassing way, those who struggle with the same daily challenges but do not condemn the children for being ‘freaks’ and how horrible the children have made their lives. Just as there exist parents of children with other kinds of disabilities who love their children unconditionally. However, sadly, these are the minority, or rather, the far less vocal ones. The collective big noise in the media everywhere is created by the parents who condemn autism as if it were some undeserved plague that descended upon them, “All I wanted was a normal child!”, “Autism has ruined my life!” etc. These one who never give a thought to the child / teenager / adult with autism, the intimate personal struggles they face, their feelings, their emotional and mental states. No, these parents, like the folks at Autism Speaks, talk about autism as the Big Bad Bogeyman. (Just watching those videos by Autism Speaks on youtube can make me physically sick!)

To these latter group of ranting, whining, complaining parents, my message is, this:

Nobody forced you into having a child. Nobody guaranteed that your child would be perfectly ‘normal’, healthy and commonplace. You made a choice. You made a conscious gamble. You took that risk, you and your partner. However, your child had no choice in the matter. Who is the one who should be feeling trapped, angry and hapless? If you went into a casino and gambled your fortune away, do you then have the right to whinge and wave your fists at the casino operators that you didn’t win anything but rather instead lost your entire life savings? Nope. If you did, you’d be shown the consequences. So why are you having it out on your child? Your child had no choice in the matter. Your child is listening. Your child hears and knows your anger, resentment and utter insensitivity. Your child is suffering even more from your attitude than from the autism itself.

I recently gave up contact with one such parent. Never a good word about her Aspie teenager. I know the boy, I taught him in preschool, and I have maintained contact with him. I just don’t want to speak to the parents anymore. I gave them a book about Asperger’s Syndrome (by Tony Attwood), my own personal hard cover copy. I told them, please stop going on and on about how horrible your life has been because of your child, and then how much you love your child in the same breath. if you really loved your child, why is it you tell me, after over a decade of your very luridly described struggle with his disabilities, you still have not read one single book about Asperger’s Syndrome? According to the boy, his parents never bothered to read it, nor did they pass it on to him to read. I told the boy that he should find a way to carve out his own future from now on. He seems to be a sensible young man. I maintain a connection with him. I told him I am not a psychologist or autism expert, I am just an older friend who understands because I have walked the Autism Road myself. I have hope for him. None for his parents.

Wake up, world! Will they ever wake up to their own utter lack of empathy? I hope they will, someday, but I know we are addressing the minority here, the few who want to wake up, who want to know, who want to join hands and help their own children, and help themselves to appreciate neurodiversity and to live life to the fullest themselves, by learning how to address, accept and embrace beauty in anomaly.

Happy Autism Month, folks.