The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons on the autism spectrum disorder. We envision a society where Filipinos on the spectrum become the best of their potentials -- self-reliant, independent, productive, socially-accepted citizens of an Autism-OK Philippines.

26 November 2009

The Macky Parayno Story: Many Beautiful Lessons Learned

Sixteen-year old PWA Macky Parayno stepped out of his house in Lynville Subd., Brgy. Molino 3, Bacoor, Cavite and disappeared into the night after dinner last Saturday, 14 November 2009.

Three days passed anxiously for the family of Macky. The family has been residing in said subdivision for only 6 months, having come all the way from Bicol to enroll Macky in a SPED center inside the subdivision. Macky’s father, Atty. Rey Parayno, had to skip work to search for Macky. Gi Parayno, mother of 5 boys, limped with worry; this was not the first time Macky ran away.

Hopewell Integrated School, where Macky attends OT and SPED, helped to spread fliers; appealing to families and the community for help to find a missing 16-year old, non-verbal, autistic child.

The ASP chapter in Bacoor relayed an SOS cry to its constituents. With intense prayers for Macky’s safety and well-being, the chapter emailed and texted local, provincial and congressional supporters. As Macky is a very energetic boy, prone to running and leaping, we feared that he could have gone much farther in three days than his searchers could imagine.

Thanks be to God Macky was found 3 days later, in a place too easily missed out - - in the Barangay Hall of Bgy. Molino 4, Bacoor - - less than five kilometers from Lynville Subdivision! Thanks to the owners of Petron gas station in Molino 4. They spotted Macky that night of Nov. 14, and brought him to Molino 4 Barangay Hall where PWD-caring Brgy. Capt. Rizaldy Remulla received Macky for temporary custody. Here, Macky was housed, fed and bathed, while waiting for someone to come looking for him.

Thanks be to God for answered prayers as Macky returned home safe, sound and whole, to everyone’s relief.
This is a testimony that God looks after children like Macky with loving favour. However, while He saved and protected Macky in this most testing moment, God also used this circumstance to teach us some very hitting lessons – and learned we did. Everybody could have thought and done better to help deliver Macky sooner than 3 days.

Sooner because a family’s anguish was mounting by the minute…

Sooner because a barefoot, non-speaking child with intellectual disability would not know how to feed and fend himself if unguarded…

Sooner because a temporary guardian could easily become uneasy and worn out, not knowing how to deal with Macky’s behaviors and special needs …

Sooner because as advocates for persons with disabilities, we must be serious in safeguardingtheir rights and welfare in their times of need…

If we don’t act quickly, we lose sight of our advocacy quickly…

The gate in Macky’s house is always padlocked to prevent Macky from slipping out. Macky took the chance to slip out when his male caregiver went out to the store opposite their house, leaving the gate open. Macky must have thought that his family would run after him as what happens all the time when he runs away, a cause-effect occurrence that he is used to. Unfortunately, he had gone out unnoticed and the effect he was expecting was to come very much later.

A number of residents from Lynville subdivision who recognized Macky claimed they saw Macky running away that night. Sadly, not one of them was either curiously driven or capable enough to follow him and assist him back home…or at least, to inform Macky’s family immediately that Macky has been seen running in the street… Everyone said he thought Macky was with someone.

Macky’s father informed Arnold Alegre, the director of Hopewell Integrated School, about Macky on Monday morning. Immediately, Teacher Arnold passed the message to Jan Peña, President of ASP Bacoor Chapter. She flashed right away the message to ASP members and supporters over Cavite and beyond, through text brigade and e-mail. They copied and gave out fliers with the picture of the missing Macky.

Commendably, at least two members responded right away by reporting to their respective barangay offices in Molino 1 and Molino 3. Barangay Molino 4, where Macky had been in custody, covers four major subdivisions where ASP Bacoor chapter has several active members. Had only one of them took an extra effort to report immediately to their barangay, he or she would find Macky Parayno right there inside the barangay hall of Molino 4.

Questions were also raised regarding barangay protocols on missing or found persons. Is there no quick info-buzz mechanism among barangay offices to promptly circulate information about reported missing or found persons?

These are a few issues that need reckoning with now that we an incident involving a person with autism. This might well be the time that we study and make resolutions to support persons with intellectual disabilities and their families in inordinary cases like this. Apparently, the case of Macky Parayno hits home not only to the concerned family, homeowners, citizens of the community, ASP members, police, and barangays. It is also the concern of higher authorities in the city or municipality, and in the province or region.

Daily, parents are confronted with a myriad of concerns –

What prompts a PWA to break away, “unmindful” of the stress it could create to his immediate family?

How could incidents like this be prevented in the house, in the streets, in the malls, in every place?

What must parents know about their children if they have autism?

What must parents know about dealing with the CWA’s nature and special needs?

Knowledge leads to understanding, and understanding to empowerment. Parents of PWA’s will benefit in taking extra effort to connect with a parents’ support group in school or in the community, such as the ASP. They can take advantage of the vast learnings, experiences and practices which members of a support group share. A support group can give invaluable assistance through empowerment trainings, exposures and adaptation opportunities for their children, as well as support services during crisis situations.

On a wider scenario –
How can we encourage our immediate community to develop genuine concern for PWAs? We need citizens who demonstrate understanding, acceptance and sense of responsibility for a fellow citizen with intellectual disability, rather than show insensitivity, indifference or aversion.

How can members of a community be empowered to respond to a critical situation and contribute to the solution of problematic situations involving PWA’s?

Needless to say, one of the longings of a family with a PWA is for members of their immediate community to be understanding and friendly to the CWA and his family, especially when an untoward incident involving the CWA occurs.

Hence, here is a call for partnership between the local autism support group and the community authorities to launch or intensify autism awareness campaigns among homeowners, barangays, churches, malls, schools and wherever possible.

The Early Detection seminar that ASP is conducting for various audiences across its 42 chapters nationwide is effective not only in heightening people’s awareness and understanding of autism as a developmental disability, but also in inspiring compassion and support for PWAs and their families.

Brgy. Capt. Rizaldy Remulla was thankful that he is now able to connect with the ASP Bacoor Chapter. The chapter pledged to provide assistance to barangays should situations involving persons with intellectual disabilities arise in the future. He realized the need to educate barangay leaders and workers about autism as well as the importance of having a quick and efficient communication system among barangays in reporting missing persons. Very soon, an autism awareness seminar for the Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) in the municipality of Bacoor will be conducted with ASP’s help.

Macky’s family stumbled upon him in the hall premises of Brgy. Molino 4, the boundary between Bacoor and Dasmariñas City. Figuratively, it is a lesson for us families never to stop seeking until we have reached the end of the line. Caring for a child with autism is a lifelong journey, but love and perseverance certainly will have its rewards.

We are deeply grateful for Brgy. Capt. Rizaldy Remulla and his staff for taking custody and care of him until his searchers came. We are thankful to those who paused to pray for his well-being and to those who took effort to respond to the cry for help. We are thankful to Macky Parayno’s family for showing us what love and sacrifice truly begets. We are thankful to God for beautiful lessons learned.

When I was young, I read a book which taught me that in every overturning experience we go through in life there is always a seed of equivalent benefit that will turn that negative experience to advantage. Let us keep the story of Macky Parayno as a beautiful reminder that we have all been given another chance to renew our commitment and support for persons with disabilities…they are our family… they are our community.

In January 2010, the nation will be celebrating the 14th National Autism Consciousness Week. Let us celebrate by saying “I have done something good for a child with autism.”


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