Growing up Autistic in Singapore

Singapore is a very competitive environment to grow up in. From a young age (and for the rest of your life), you’re constantly compared to your peers, mostly in terms of school grades (career and wealth if you’re an adult).

There’s also huge pressure to follow a particular roadmap in your life:

  1. Get good grades in school
  2. Go to a good university
  3. Get a sensible job (i.e. no career in the arts)
  4. Find a (heterosexual) partner
  5. Get married so you can buy subsidised public housing
  6. Start a family

If you can’t keep up, you’re seen as a “problem”. The onus is on you to “fix” yourself, because “you can’t expect the world to accommodate to you.” (I was often told this as a child.)

And if you can’t “fix” yourself, you’re seen as “lazy” and “undeserving of good things”.

As you can imagine, this isn’t the best environment for an Autistic person to grow up in. I was plagued with low self-esteem for most of my life because I was always falling behind.

Because of this and my experiences at convent school, I was convinced that I was The Worst Person to Ever Exist.

It took me a long time to realise I was raised in an environment that simply wasn’t built to include people like me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t succeed because the system was rigged against me from the start.

The only way I could thrive was by forging my own unconventional path in life. And finding supportive people who are unconventional like me and understand me. And learning not to care about what others think of me.

Singapore still has a very, very long way to go in accepting individuals who don’t fit the norm. I hope that by sharing my experiences, I can make a bit of difference. Or at least help others like me feel less alone.

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