Autism can be an impediment to social interaction, but a 30-year-old man with the neurodevelopmental disorder has managed to step out from its shadow after discovering a talent for singing via uploaded videos on a Facebook page, which solicits online support and encouragement.
The man, nicknamed Hsiao Chun (小淳), was bullied and excluded socially since he was a child, as his mild autism hindered communication with others.
This childhood trauma rendered Hsiao Chun terrified of human contact, until the Taipei Autism Children Social Welfare Foundation arranged an administrative position for him at a sheltered workshop, which was designed to offer a supportive environment where physically and mentally challenged people can obtain work experience and skills.
Besides vocational training, the 30-year-old also received counseling at the workshop, where his diligence and responsible attitude won the praise of his superiors and earned him a promotion to salesman.
“Human interaction always terrified me in the past, but thanks to the foundation’s assistance and encouragement, I have become more willing to engage with others,” Hsiao Chun said yesterday.
Hsiao Chun said he had been tempted to compete in the foundation’s regular singing contests, but his lack of confidence had prevented him from giving it a try.
With encouragement from foundation chief executive Ko Bai-shan (柯白珊), Hsiao Chun began to record his singing and uploaded the videos to Facebook to solicit the opinions of his online friends, who would then offer constructive feedback to help him improve his singing skills.
In 2013, he eventually built up the courage to sign up for one of the foundation’s singing competitions, which he won.
In an effort to raise public awareness of autism, the foundation yesterday invited Hsiao Chun and a number of celebrities to sing at a charity concert in Taipei.
Asked what it was like being the only autistic person singing with celebrities, Hsiao Chun said: “I simply tried my best, because all that mattered was that I enjoyed what I did.”
Ko said the foundation has been helping an average of 400 families with autistic children per year, offering them counseling services, family support and employment opportunities at sheltered workshops.
“We are hoping that the concert can bring more people closer to understanding autism,” she said.
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