The process of getting to know Asher was an interesting one for me personally - I first met with his art and the banana prints, saw how he looked like in some photos and was told some anecdotes from the fine folks at The Art Faculty (TAF). I learnt a lot about him before I met him. I was told to anticipate possible situations if we were to film him at his house and what we would need to prepare, how to plan the day of filming around his usual routines, and how we’d interview him.
Everything about this preparation process was indicative that this kid was on the autism spectrum. Yet, the most amazing thing to note was that I could not tell that he has autism the first day I met him. This is something that I feel is important to share.
Through this edition from our #TAFedition series, we've only begun to understand what autism is. We've learnt that it isn't always obvious to tell if one is on the autism spectrum and that unfortunately sometimes, people may attribute a public meltdown to bad parenting or an ill-mannered child when that isn’t quite the case.
We've also learnt that while they may have difficulties with certain things, they are also exceptionally talented in other areas. This is why we hope to spread greater awareness and understanding of autism. More importantly, we want to appreciate their talents - to celebrate abilities and support inclusion.
This is Asher’s story, told in my perspective.
Asher fell in love with art and music at a young age, first starting to draw at the age of 5. Starting with faces, he quickly moved on to drawing musical instruments and various forms of art. The young artist was inspired by the TV show Little Einstein, and continued his interest in art and music as his talents became clear to both his parents and teachers in school.
As a child on the autism spectrum, I thought that it was beautiful that he found a means of expression through art and music. Children on the autism spectrum may face greater challenges than the average kid but that doesn’t mean they can’t lead a normal life. I was heartened to know this.
Autism was just the beginning for Asher, however. What started out as a high fever persisted for more than a week despite being on 2 courses of antibiotics. Following a blood test to check for the possibility of dengue, he was sadly diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) when he was 9.
With the side effects being tough on young Asher, he took a break from school for a year and half to nurse his health. I’ve had some personal experience with what chemotherapy can do to an adult, so it was hard to imagine its effects on a 9 year old.
When speaking with Asher’s mother, she shared that at the start, it wasn’t easy and Asher couldn’t understand why he had to visit the hospital so many times. Chemo was tough, but music and art got him through the dark days and he eventually began to get better.
Along with the positive support from nurses, doctors and the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF), Asher is now in his 4th year of remission and will be cleared in March, 2022. He still needs to go back for a full blood count every 6 months but the strong and resilient young man is no longer scared of the needle.
“He was treated in NUH Viva-University Children's Cancer Centre by a group of wonderful & compassionate doctors & nurses, including Associate Professor Allen Yeoh & Dr Frances Yeap, a consultant in paediatric oncology. We are very grateful to the doctors and medical team in NUH Ward 8B for saving Asher’s life and also for being a source of support throughout his treatment. For now, we just hope he can learn to be independent and stay healthy.” - Mrs Won, Mother of Asher Won
Asher continued to do well, winning art competitions and became the very first artist for our #TAFEdition series which launched to much fanfare. We appreciate all of your support thus far and hope that this story will drive greater awareness for children on the autism spectrum and for the Children’s Cancer Foundation.
We invite everyone to recognise and learn about the genius that exists within these children. Instead of forcing them to come out to a world we deem as normal, we invite all of you, through #TAFedition and Beyond The Art, to enter theirs because there's a beautiful one inside each of them if we take the time to appreciate it - I’m glad I did.
Written by Ryan Choy, Head of Branding and Marketing and Project Lead for TAF Edition
View TAF Edition: Bananas by Asher Won