Heyo! My name is Nat but I’m sure you know me as “Your Future SMRT CEO”. (If you don’t know me as that, I’ll get to why others do in a while). If you ask me about my hobbies, I’d say “public transport” aside from the usual answers people give like “singing”, or “playing the guitar”, which I actually do, too! 


Most people don’t know that I have autism, and I can only say I’ve been through a lot. From being socially awkward (“This guy autistic”) to becoming somewhat of a social butterfly (“Huh? You got autism??”), I’ve received hurtful remarks like, “Fake one lah, want people pity only.” because many people consider me a miracle: someone who “overcame” his condition and is able to communicate with others quite normally. 


I am currently with Extra•Ordinary People, an organisation that aims to enable and support individuals with special needs in forming an inclusive society. My work involves overseeing the entire IT strategy and policy of the organisation. I am also part of Extra•Ordinary People’s Community Partnerships team and part of the Disability & Inclusion (D&I) outreach effort which is why you’re reading this and hearing more about autism! 


Many have asked for my experiences in the workplace as someone with autism. I do get overstimulated or “triggered” at times, but I also choose to tolerate such triggers because although some of my colleagues are parents of children with special needs, they need to understand that we are different. Despite this, I would still say that the workplace is welcoming and filled with happiness and laughter, often due to the inside jokes that I created. 


I’ve been brought up since young to be someone who helps those in need – sitting on the reserved seat to reserve it for someone else who may need it more or even helping someone who seemed lost on the MRT! My colleagues often say to me, “Nat, you’re famous!”, as though it’s news. What they don’t know is that I actually am famous: I was featured in a Mothership article in 2021! 


Today, I have managed to put a physical presence to my aspiration to be SMRT’s future CEO – a literal platform at ‘one of the busiest MRT stations’ where I continue to help commuters and promote kindness and the Caring Commuter culture, initiated by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Public Transport Council (PTC). 

A crowded train station
Can you guess which station? Image source: Nathanael Tan

After reading all this, you might be thinking: “This guy siao ah?” and that is what people think when someone chooses to be different, to do things no one else thinks of doing. Before I started hanging out at the station, I didn’t have any direct interaction with other people with special needs or disabilities. This is why I always emphasise how much I learn at the station, because that is where I encounter and assist commuters with special needs or disabilities. 


Let me share with you two of my unique experiences… 


The first story requires some context. I am occasionally tasked by one of my Station Managers to observe this boy with autism who likes to press the emergency buttons at the platform. I think he did not quite understand the consequences of such an action. It was important, therefore, that he was supervised by someone who could empathise with him. 

An emergency button in a typical Singaporean train
“Don’t anyhow press red button!” Image source: Nathanael Tan

Another experience involved a much older male with a more “severe” form of autism – like that of Pangdemonium’s “Falling” depicts (I helped to advise on the acting in that play as well! See the image below). Now, imagine seeing a young man yell at his mum at the station. What would you do? Well, a commuter stepped in to scold the young man until she was told that he had autism and is a regular at our station. This is why raising awareness about autism is so important. 

A group of people standing in a theatre
At Pangdemonium’s Falling Post-Show Dialogue session. Spot me on the extreme right! Image source: Extra•Ordinary People

I’ve always made it a point to just be myself — to show care, concern, and kindness for the people around me. Let us not just be kind, but also be one of a kind.


Established in 2017 as a registered charity, Extra•Ordinary People aims to empower individuals with special needs and foster understanding, empathy, and inclusivity within diverse communities. Journeying with their beneficiaries and conducting disability and inclusion talks for companies, schools, and the public, gives this charity the opportunity to positively impact the lives of individuals with special needs. For more information on the charity, please visit https://www.extraordinarypeople.sg.

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