‘I’m not bad, I’m not ill, I’m autistic’: Woman’s relief on being finally diagnosed at 42
Loud noises and bright lights terrified her, school gave her meltdowns. For years Dawn-joy Leong didn’t know why, until she found out she had Asperger’s Syndrome, she tells On the Red Dot.
SINGAPORE: For over 40 years, Dr Dawn-joy Leong struggled to come to terms with some of her eccentricities and social awkwardness.
She had always known that she was different from her friends and relatives, but couldn’t figure out why.
It was only 10 years ago, when she was 42 and her struggle neared breaking point, that she discovered that she was on the autism spectrum – and it all made perfect sense, as people with the disorder sometimes face difficulties communicating and interacting with others.
Unlike autistic children who are diagnosed early and if need be, attend special needs schools, Dr Leong attended a regular school which turned out to be daunting – at times, even traumatic.
Dr Leong is extra sensitive to sound and light, common among people with autism spectrum disorder. “School gave me endless meltdowns. I spent all my energies in school coping with the lights and the sounds.
“Classroom sounds were excruciating because the children dragged their chairs and desks were moved around,” she recalled.
‘I COULD HEAR CHICKENS SCREAMING’
The sensory overload also resulted in her having frequent meltdowns at public places such as wet markets.
“I grew up at a time where the wet markets allowed the fresh slaughter of chickens. I could hear the chickens screaming and the water boiling.
“For a regular person, it was probably nothing, part of the background noise. But in my head, it was like an orchestra, very loud,” recounted Dr Leong, now 52.