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.

11 January 2010

"Like a Piece of Paper"

By: Ms Donna Lim

From one mother to another, may this story strengthen our hope and encourage us to face our daily challenges.

Someone said that a person’s life is like a piece of paper. Written are the words to describe his/her persona. Words, making up the wholeness of the person. Words, giving meaning and life to his/her world.

But, what about people with special needs? Children with conditions like autism and developmental disorders? Will the words written on their paper be as comprehensive as those any typical persons’? Or will they just read through the words, without savoring the meaning of what’s written? These questions, I have pondered for quite sometime. And it is through a pivotal experience that I have found the answers.

Like any ordinary day, I started planning out my daily activities. One of the itineraries was to take my two girls to watch Disney on Ice at Araneta Coliseum. My youngest, 5 years old, has already packed her things. My eldest, 16, carefully arranged her essentials for the trip. She has autism.

My autist child, Desly, is self-sufficient and tedious in choosing what’s needed for the day. Simple tasks like these make me feel blessed to have a functional child, despite her condition.

By mid-afternoon, off we went. Since it was the Christmas season, the heavy traffic made my driving miserable. But the long drive was all worth it, when I saw the girl’s excitement in their untainted smiles.

The crowd gave applauses for the lights, sound, visuals, and spectacular performance. This is one of the moments that will forever be in their hearts, a document written legibly in their life journal – in their “paper “, especially Desly.

When the curtain call ended the show, I held tightly to each of my girls’ hands, got up from our seats, made our way through the thick crowd; squeezing our bodies in every available space.

We headed straight for the exit, but it was overwhelming. It was impossible for everyone to exit with ease. We were almost near the exit gate, when the unthinkable happened. Despite my efforts to hold on to Desly, we got separated. She got further away and got mixed up with the crowd.

I had to compose myself, not panic and mustered the strength to push through the crowd, as I clutched my other daughter’s hand out from the sea of spectators. I had to stay alert and focused; knowing in the back of my mind, my austist child must be terrified, wandering in the unfamiliar place.

To help look for my missing daughter, I sought the assistance of the nearest security officers. They alerted the other security personnel and started the search. I taught of going back our designated seats, hoping to catch a glimpse of Desly. When all of a sudden, my other daughter, tugged my hand and said “Mommy is that Ate?,” pointing towards the exit gate.

A burden was released from my chest. Desly stood near the exit gate where we got separated. It was a miracle! We ran towards Desly and I hugged both my daughters so tightly like I would never let them go. I could hear our hearts beating. Thankful and relieved, we all went home-intact and safe.

Someone up there must always be watching us. Maybe God was telling me something? I guess, God was answering the questions that pondered me lately. I mean, how else could my daughter gather the initiative to stay put in one corner? Let alone, stay in the same place where she got separated in the middle of an unfamiliar territory? Made her own solution and gathered great logic when the utmost urgency arose?

When we look at children with special needs, we often see the superficial. Maybe it’s time we see the bigger and deeper picture.

A child with special needs is like a piece of paper, wherein we write down some random words that they read over and over without comprehension. Please fill them instead with beautiful and meaningful words. Color their lives’ journal, figuratively, for they know how to read between the lines. They will astound you with their own little wonders.

Desly Alvarado
Desly Bianca Lim Alvarado is the keyboardist of SPARKLE Band, a band composed of children with autism. For more information on the sparkle band click here.


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