The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons on the autism spectrum disorder. We envision a society where Filipinos on the spectrum become the best of their potentials -- self-reliant, independent, productive, socially-accepted citizens of an Autism-OK Philippines.

08 July 2010

Understanding Myself

By: Eric Chen, Person with Autism

My special condition provided me with a different perspective of how things worked on Planet Earth. From TV dramas, I understood that love was something that caused people to do irrational things like jumping from bridges for the sake of another person. However, free will eluded me because I could not understand how anyone could choose something other than the optimal logical solution to a problem.

Mr. Eric Chen

Over the past few years, I began to perceive the hidden dimensions of social communications. Once, I was about to cross a road and encountered a speeding car. I spontaneously signaled to the driver that I am giving him the right of way by moving one of my feet half a step backwards. That led me to understand that communication is not about exchanging data, but expressing and reading intent.
In mid May 2010, I quit my day job and launched my third book, Star Child on Earth, in Hong Kong. I then went to Taiwan to help film an autism documentary. I enjoyed my first experience of Taiwan - living in a Taiwanese household, tasting smelly tofu, meeting many interesting people, getting a fashion makeover and sharing about my experience with autism.

Dressing up as a high school student and sitting in a real high school class was the fulfillment of my dream of re-experiencing my teenage school life, but with my present level of social skills and self-confidence. As I sat in my chair following the film crew's instructions, I imagined how it might be like to hang out with and date my new classmates. Too bad it only lasted for less than 2 hours.

I also met a Waldorf teacher who guided me through a few Waldorf exercises. As I drew lines on a piece of paper, I experienced the universe opening up to me. I felt great awe for God's creations as I grasped some of the previously abstract scientific principles I learnt from the textbooks.

Visiting a mother of two PWAs (Person With Autism) brought back memories of my past. In particular, one of her sons spilled some water in front of me. When his mother told him to clean the table with a towel, he started robotically mopping his side of the table, inching slowly towards the spill on the opposite side. I told his mother that this was due to her son not realizing that cleaning up the spill (rather than cleaning the table thoroughly) was the top priority - a mistake I often made due to my inability to read intent from situations.

Both the production crew and this parent brought up many issues and gave me feedback that I was previously unaware of. I realized that I was not really an autism expert, but an expert on "Eric Chen" (a.k.a. myself) since my situation is rather unique. I also realized that my autism work lacked love, as I did not connect with the parents, social workers and PWAs while sharing with them.

My greatest gain from this visit was to feel the love from my mother for the first time. As I touched a bun from a dear Taiwanese friend, I felt the love she conveyed to me. With this, I realized that her gifts are a medium for the expression of love. I remembered what my mother did for me in the past as an expression of her love and almost cried.

I then went to Hong Kong to speak at a conference and then to Macau for a vacation. I had a good time meeting friends, giving a few autism sharings and doing some emotional healing work.

Arriving in Singapore, I was pleasantly surprised that the students who have previously interviewed me did not mention me in their special feature on autism. Their theme was "who will take care of the PWAs when they grow up?" I was glad to answer that I could not only take care of myself, but support my family and make a positive contribution to society too.

Perhaps the time will soon come when I find out how to cross my final frontier. Until then, what I can do is to serve my responsibilities without betraying myself by taking on a second job that I can accept.

More about Eric's Autism Work


Darius said...

I have met Eric before and I must say he is really someone that has a very fresh perspective of life on Earth. Amazing guy!

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