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.

17 November 2009

An Open Letter to Senator Noynoy Aquino from a Mother of an Autistic Child

(Originally published in on November 16, 2009)

Dear Senator Noynoy,

button pins saying "Better autistic than corrupt"
Up until you announced your candidacy, I had given up hope in the election process of 2010. While I have exercised my voting rights judiciously in every election since I turned eighteen, years of ineffective, dishonest governing have made me jaded and worn me out of any shred of hope.

And then you came along, and for the first time in many, many years, I felt I had something to look forward to. This child of the Marcos era, who slept through much of her adolescence in an apolitical and apathetic slumber, who resisted the call for the revolution in 1986 because she was too busy studying, is putting her hopes for honest change squarely on your shoulders. I pray for a change that will come in my lifetime and continue in my children’s and their children’s lifetimes.

Your popularity does not surprise me. I share the sentiments of many people who have felt indignant yet helpless at the shameless and callous displays of behavior of our present government. But while your popularity may help you in the course of the campaign, it has also opened you to vicious attacks from your opponents.

Your critics claim that you are autistic, and as any neurotypical person is wont to react, you have vehemently denied it, calling it “malicious and baseless.”

Allow me to say outright that I do not believe you have autism. I may not be a diagnostician, but having lived with autism every single day for the last fifteen years of my life, I know what autism is firsthand. I have witnessed it up close, lived with all its blessings, and survived almost all its challenges. What I know of it, I know not only from books, from the Net, or from research and published papers. What I know of it comes from real life. As an advocate for autism, I am proud to be part of the large community of families of Filipinos with autism, which at last count, numbers close to half a million affected individuals. That being said, let me posit a question: If you were one, what is absolutely wrong with it?

Autism is a spectrum of conditions ranging from the mildly affected to the most severely impaired. Common to this spectrum, however, are varying degrees of deficits in social relatedness, behavior, and communication. My son Alphonse, at 15, remains on the far end of the bell curve of “normal.” He is nonverbal, continues to require assistance for many of the activities of daily living, and has the cognitive understanding of a five-year-old child. You, on the other hand, are well-educated, highly conversant and intelligent; your cognitive abilities are certainly not in question. While these two pictures comprise the polar ends of the extent and breadth of a highly complicated spectrum (again, I reiterate, we are simply assuming for the sake of argument that you belong to this spectrum), they are not totally incompatible. (To wit, there are individuals with different degrees of autism already enrolled in some of our country’s best universities.)

Autism is difficult and challenging, and to those of us who love persons with autism, it is a rollercoaster ride every single day. Is it a disability? It is, but it also is not; it depends on how you look at it. And yet, when you really think about it, ravenous greed is a much harder disorder to treat, as are immorality, shamelessness, corruption, and vice. I have heard of recovery in autism, but diseases of the soul are almost always incurable.

If being autistic means not being able to lie, then by all means, I should be proud to say I am autistic.

If being autistic means not being able to cheat and rig elections, then call me autistic.

If being autistic means not being able to steal, to use public funds for personal gain while the country wallows in poverty, then I am staunchly autistic.

If being autistic means satisfaction with what one has, if it means a characteristic lack of greed and materialism, then I count myself autistic.

If it means not being envious and not judging people based on looks, money, connections, or pogi points, then, yes, I am autistic.

So the next time someone calls you autistic and you feel slighted, perhaps you may wish to reply to them this way instead: “Thank you for calling me autistic. To me, autism does not make one more or less of a person. It does not make one more or less of a man. It just makes one autistic. I am sorry to disappoint you that I am not, but I hope to be able to live up to the honesty people with autism expect every day. I would much rather be autistic than be corrupt. Better autistic than be unable to understand what it means to be a public servant. Thank you very much.”

The day you do, you have championed the cause of the least able of our people. And for what it’s worth, you still have my vote.

Sincerely yours,
Pinky Ong-Cuaycong

Pinky Cuaycong is Kittymama, full time mom of two boys (a 16-year-old high school junior and a 14-year-old with profound autism), part-time writer, and blogger. In Okasaneko Chronicles, she writes about her life’s deepest passions: her husband of 18 years, her teenage sons, autism advocacy, and Hello Kitty.


Kiko said...

Thank you, Ms. Pinky and ASP. I also have condemned this latest incident of using our children's condition to ridicule other people (on my Facebook page). But I have to say this, Ms. Pinky, this is a great piece -- a strong and meaningful commentary. Please keep on writing.

Allan D. Francisco

bummer said...

thank you miss pinky. i would like to repost your deep insight, if you don't mind. just something i would like to share sa mga kaibigan kong hindi nag iisip that i have an autistic child, who callously posted noynoy's "autistic" condition...

Lani said...

thank you, Ms. Pinky for sharing your thoughts. the very heartless remark from a politician who claims on having the best interest of the people in mind by endorsing a presidential candidate but failed to show compassion to persons with autism. his very calloused statement only showed his insensitivity to the less fortunate people and contradicted the battlecry of their party to help the marginalized citizens of this country.

i think we should call the attention of this politician for his very ruthless remark and attack to persons with disabilities.

harveychua0208 said...

I share your frustration with our government and politicians, past and present, and I agree with you that Noynoy Aquino committed a faux pas with how he denied being autistic. It was an unfortunate and callous remark that gives us a hint as to how he thinks of differently-challenged people, and sorely demonstrates the ignorance about autism that we all need to overcome.

Through my husband's work with persons with autism ("Colors of A Spectrum" and other photography projects with persons with various disabilities, including autism), I have been privileged to meet people with autism and their families -and all I can say is that I have seen better people among them than the politicians who govern us, or seek to govern us, Noynoy Aquino included.

It looks like Noynoy Aquino not only needs to learn how to answer properly - but more importantly, he needs to be educated about the true worth of every individual - if he wants to lead a nation of 80+ million people that suffers far, far more from graft, corruption and ineptitude of people in government than any other form of disability.

Cataract Foundation said...! rightly said. count me in for being autistic.

Anonymous said...

..not voting for noynoy!!

Anonymous said...

beautiful piece..

sorry, noynoy is not getting my vote. they are sooo in denial! such a hypocrite.

Unknown said...

Thank you and I am one with you on your advocacy.

Unknown said...

i think noynoy probably has asperger syndrome, a neural development disorder classified as a type of autism with minimal or absent limitation of cognition and language facility. social interaction, physical clumsiness and atypical language skills are noted in this condition.

Rodney St.Michael said...

I have a comment @

Rodney St.Michael

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