Love and Accept me as I am - Christopher James Cheong likes eating many types of local dishes especially laksa, adores arts and craft, enjoys reading the newspapers and loves cycling. He particularly enjoys travelling and seeing new places. However, what he desires and wants most is acceptance. Acceptance from society and for who and what he is, including his idiosyncrasies and eccentricities.
Chris was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when he was almost four years old. The diagnosis was initially a bitter pill to swallow and it was challenging for his parents and family. After the diagnosis, Chris experienced a slew of interventions and different types of therapies. These sessions did help Chris to a certain extent, but it was not the vast improvements that his parents hoped for. There is no doubt that Chris’ parents loved him as much as any parent would and have now accepted him as who he truly is. He currently only attends sessions and activities that he enjoys and is now a much happier and more confident person.
When it comes to abilities and interests, Chris has many. He cycles weekly, enjoys hiking and long walks in the park. In fact, the frequent hikes and long walks are calming for Chris and these sessions help him cope with stress. His thirst for knowledge has also given him the ability to read and write. Some of his greatest joys are reading the newspapers and cookbooks, which he does faithfully till today.
Raising Chris was never a smooth road and it was fraught with many uncertainties, stress and anxiety. Yet, through it all, with love, patience and faith, Chris was able to overcome the many difficulties he faced. One of the challenges he faced was visiting the dentist. He was given general anaesthesia before the dentist could perform any dental check-ups. It took many trials before Chris finally allowed the dentist near him. Today, he visits the dentist regularly and gets his teeth cleaned and examined by the dentist without any general anesthesia. What an achievement!
Singapore has come a long way towards inclusivity for People with Disabilities. In Chris’ view, the landscape has changed drastically for the better within the last twenty years, especially in the area of early childhood development. He is also blessed that he has parents and family that have embraced him in every way possible. Chris has always been made to feel that he is part of society and all that it has to offer him.
Chris hopes that more research, services and planning will be offered to improve the lives of adults with disabilities in Singapore. For Chris, true inclusivity for adults with disabilities is “living openly in the community” without institutional segregation. All are equal and well-integrated into society. After all, People with Disabilities are to be loved, respected and accepted for who they are.
We couldn’t agree more.
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