ADMISSIONS BLOG

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World Autism Awareness was instituted by the United Nations General Assembly, which declared 2 April as ‘World Autism Awareness Day’ (WAAD).

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autism for short, is a pervasive disorder that is characterised by a triad of impairment: social interaction, language and communication, and perspective taking and inflexibility. Not everybody with autism spectrum disorder has the same difficulties. Some people may have autism that is mild while others may have autism that is more severe. Two people with autism spectrum disorder may not act alike or have the same skills.

ASD affects tens of millions of people in the world.

Here in Singapore, World Autism Awareness Week (WAAW) was first inaugurated in 2011 by students from Benjamin Sheares College, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School. WAAW was held from 2nd April to 6th April this year. Working closely with our distinguished partners from Autism Association Singapore (AAS), Autism Resource Center, Singapore (ARC), Saint Andrew’s Autism Centre (SAAC) and Rainbow Center, we celebrated WAAW this year by holding the annual “Light It Up Blue!” campaign on 2nd April, roadshow at ION Orchard on 4th April, followed by the Healthcare Seminar for medical professionals the following day.

This year, for the first time, we also sought to increase public education by adding a Singapore-wide roving library exhibition in collaboration with the National Library Board to reach out to the heartlands and educate the public on autism. The roving exhibition is showcased in libraries and hospitals around Singapore, and will be on display for months at the various designated locations island-wide after World Autism Awareness Week.

I was honored to be involved in the planning of the roadshow for this year’s event, alongside a team of remarkable and dedicated individuals. The theme for this year’s WAAW was “Celebrating the Colours of Life” where people with autism who represent the colours of society are celebrated. Despite the problems that we encountered during the months of preparation, we managed to work through them with our partners and for the first time this year, with help from the Duke-NUS Class of 2017, we successfully packed and distributed to the public on the day of the roadshow, 5000 goodie bags filled with items from our generous sponsors and information pertaining to autism. Our team is truly grateful for the tremendous amount of help that we received.

After months of planning, the much-awaited day finally arrived. It felt surreal, yet exciting. Despite running into a few unforeseen problems such as the sudden downpour and electrical power failure, everything fell into place eventually. It was a touching sight to see such great support from the public and how much the children and adults with autism and their caregivers were enjoying themselves. The roadshow event ended on a high note with everyone getting onto their feet, dancing away to music from the live band, WindWorkz.

We can perhaps never fully learn and understand what this group of people, including their caregivers has gone through. It has certainly not been an easy journey for them to come this far. The autism spectrum still includes a large population who currently has no realistic hope of substantial employment. It is because they are disabled and for reasons we still do not fully comprehend. This is the thing we need to fight for the most, as we build autism awareness.They need help remediating the many, varied and often challenging problems that touch those with autism. Only then can many of them fully integrate with society in the way we all desire.

Through this annual event we hope to give a voice to the millions of individuals worldwide who are undiagnosed, misunderstood and looking for help.

In this photo: Esplanade, Singapore Flyer, Ministry of Health and ION Orchard (From top left, clockwise) lit up in blue in support of this awareness.

In this photo: Hard at work, my classmates are preparing the Giveaway bags for the roadshow.

In this photo: Volunteers for the roadshow distributing balloons and Giveaway bags to the public.

In this photo: Children from the autism centers in Singapore (top panel), the WindWorkz (bottom left) and students from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School (bottom right) performing a variety of dance and song for the night.

In this photo: Dean Ranga Krishnan, our Guest-of-Honor giving a speech to the audience (Left). Dean Ranga Krishnan presenting a painting as a token of appreciation to ION Orchard for their support (Right).

In this photo: The families, caregivers and the children dancing along to the music (Left). George Young addressing the crowd (Right)

In this photo: The ION Orchard Jumbotron featuring a video about autism awareness.

In this photo: The World Autism Awareness Seminar Series for physicians and allied healthcare professionals at KKH Hospital.

In this photo: One of the distinguished speakers addressing the audience (Left). Participants having
their tea break (Right)

In this photo: The roving exhibition about autism spectrum disorder at the Jurong Regional Library


By Cassandra Ho, Class of 2017

Photo by Nicholas Brian Shannon, Class of 2017