Find Out Next: The Challenges People With Autism Face After Turning 18
SINGAPORE – Through a series of photographs and videos, photographer Bob Lee sheds light on the daily life and societal challenges faced by people with autism after their 18th birthday. Straits Times senior photojournalist Neo Xiaobin speaks to him.
Photographer Bob Lee’s biggest fear is the future of his 14-year-old son Jun Le when he and his wife die.
Jun Le was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of three.
Mr. Lee, 45, founder of creative house The Fat Farmer, said, âWhere is he going to stay? What kind of options will he have when we’re not around to take care of him? “
In 2011, Mr. Lee quit his job as a photojournalist at Lianhe Zaobao to freelance in order to take better care of his son. He has since become an advocate for the special needs community in Singapore, using his professional skills to shed light on these issues.
âJun Le will graduate from special education school in four years. And after?”
The question led him to seek answers to what awaits young people with autism who leave the special schools sanctuary at the age of 18.
With help from local SPD and Facebook support groups, Mr. Lee met 12 young adults with autism, along with their caregivers, and shared their stories in a photo exhibit held at the Esplanade Tunnel to to July 4.
Entitled Finding What’s Next, it contains a total of 84 photographs, 10 videos and nine trailers detailing the difficult circumstances in young adults’ search for a future. People involved in the project include editor Jean Loo, writer Sun Meilan and writer Lim Hwee Hwee, who is the wife of Mr. Lee.
One of the stories is that of Mr. Marcus Toh, 20, who is constantly on the move – from bouncing on his trampoline to zipping on his scooter.
Involving him in a plethora of activities is part of an effort to help Marcus cope with sensory deregulation – a state in which his sensory system is out of balance, leading to extreme responses to changes in light, smell or sound in its environment.
While the loud noises Marcus makes may invite uncomfortable stares from the audience, that doesn’t deter his father Toh Chin Kiang, 54, from taking him out.
Mr. Toh is kind and patient with Marcus. He hopes he can help show others how to communicate with people with autism. His wish is that as Marcus becomes a familiar sight in the community, others can embrace him and even help him watch him someday.
Mr. Lee said, âI have seen how patient Mr. Toh is in taking care of Marcus, who is on the highest needs spectrum. The challenges they face every day are much more difficult than those of our family.
The story that touched Mr. Lee the most was that of St Andrew’s Adult Home: “
It is the first and only autism-focused residential facility in Singapore. Jun Le is our only child and he will need their help someday. Reality struck us emotionally as we researched and documented the place.
For Lee, the project is not only about raising awareness about autism, but also about garnering support from the community and getting the public to think about what they can do to help – from helping their families. neighbors to hiring individuals with autism as employees for their business.
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