Don't shut out voices of those with autism

It worries me greatly that for all that is being done to educate and raise people's awareness about autism spectrum disorders (ASD), true understanding and acceptance are still a distant dream for individuals like me, who are on the spectrum.

Many policymaking decisions towards people with ASD or other developmental disabilities are made by people who have little to no understanding about the problems we face on a daily basis.

Some instances of these are not giving any consideration to how social interaction makes many of us extremely uncomfortable or forcing people like us into jobs that just do not suit our capabilities.

The prevalent attitude appears to be: "I'm normal, you're not, so I'm smarter than you. Therefore, I'll decide what I think is best for you".

Actually, the first step towards a solution is extremely easy.

Simply allow us to tell you what we need to achieve our aspirations - to be taxpayers, not tax burdens.

Some simple ways to do this are by inviting people with ASD to conferences, dialogues or talks and allowing us to share our experiences, difficulties and what can be done to help us become contributing members of society.

One such event where this could be done is at the Asia-Pacific Autism Conference 2019.

However, it is discouraging when a presenter with autism has to pay a prohibitive registration fee of $642 at such an event.

While having greater awareness of autism is good, it is not enough.

For those of us with ASD to not become a burden on taxpayers and to give back ourselves, we need the right support and help.

Christopher Loy Ki-Jin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2019, with the headline 'Don't shut out voices of those with autism'. Print Edition | Subscribe