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‘The Children Can’t be Wrong’

For World Autism Day, DJP Fellow Naufal Asy-Syaddad Explores What It’s Like to Be Autistic in Indonesia in 2023

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DJP Fellow Naufal Asy-Syaddad shares the hopes, dreams, and challenges of his autistic friends from his hometown of Semarang City, Indonesia. In ‘The Children Can’t be Wrong,’ he interviews Muhammad Atarriq Husein, a singer and drumming champion, about why autistic people should be supported. “Because there is potential or what?” asks Naufal. “No, because of affection,” Husein replies. “Children need attention from their parents.”

Later, Naufal visits the home of his friend, Reno Amanullah Nugraha. Reno is nonspeaking, so Naufal puts his questions on a piece of paper and Reno writes his answers. Asked about his dislikes, Reno replies, “tempeh, chips, and syrup.” Asked what he would like to do every day, Reno says he would like to bring money and “wear a sarong, wear a shirt, and wear pants every day.”

In the film, Naufal confesses his own hopes for the future: “My dreams are having better social skills, marrying a woman who accepts my disability, and exploring Indonesia.”

Photo of Naufal Asy-Syaddad.

Filmmaker: Naufal Asy-Syaddad

Naufal Asy-Syaddad is a disability rights activist with autism. After joining Yogasmara Foundation’s finance staff last year, Asy-Syaddad became chairperson of the foundation’s youth group. Yogasmara Foundation provides accommodation, accessibility, and advocacy services for Indonesians with autism and developmental disabilities to gain equality in fulfilling their rights as citizens. The foundation was started by his mother, disability rights activist Lani Setyadi. It is based in Semarang, the capital of Central Java.  

In 2015, Asy-Syaddad was selected to be a “disability ambassador” representing Indonesia at a training in Thailand on the rights of persons with disabilities. Beyond his work with the Yogasmara Foundation, Asy-Syaddad is a talented mathematician, achieving top honors in national competitions and garnering local press attention. He recently earned a mathematics degree from Diponegoro University. With the Disability Justice Project, he hopes to share his experiences to end the stigma and discrimination against persons with autism.

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