The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

31 August 2010

Sister Act

By: Dang U. Koe, ASP Chair Emeritus

In order to make autism a family matter, ASP encourages family members to advocate by contributing articles to our ASaP (ASP stories, announcement and pictures) blog. This blog site is the first recipient of the Philippine Blog Award’s Best in Advocacy, an honor given out last year.

A recent article caught our eye. The blog should certainly be shared with more readers, especially students. Our Angel Talker is Amaris Grace M. Cabason, a graduate of AB Social Science from Ateneo de Manila University, and now a second year law student at San Beda College. She is the daughter of Alex and Marivi Cabason, president and first lady of ASP Marikina Valley Chapter respectively. Of course, the entire Cabason family advocates for Amaris’ brother Vinz.

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Angel Talker Amaris and his brother Vinz

“I was blessed to have graduated from one of the best universities in the country, where free thinking, excellence, and a deep relationship with God are encouraged. Students are taught to break away from the typical way of thinking and to be critical but open-minded in how they assess issues.

It is also a school that encourages its students to be who they are and at the same time accept other people’s identities. One would expect then that the students’ attitudes towards persons with disability would be tolerant and even accepting, given the kind of training that they undergo in this institution.
During the school year 2009-2010, however, a freshman showed how unaware and uninformed some of the students where when it came to handling a person with autism.

Patrick, a Life Sciences major, is very gifted in mathematics, and can finish a computation mentally faster than someone who uses a calculator. An English professor told Patrick’s mother that he once asked about a 19th century camera in class, and out of all his students, only Patrick knew the answer. This is because Patrick is also a voracious reader, making him knowledgeable about various topics, giving him a wide vocabulary, and making him a very good writer, prompting the same teacher to give him a grade of A for a reaction paper, the highest possible grade given in the university. His classmates are constantly amazed at the many things Patrick knows.

Patrick, however, has Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As a person with autism (PWA), he has trouble maintaining interpersonal relationships and exhibits what most people would label as “odd” behavior but which are common to PWAs. Because of his ADHD, he hardly studies, and thus he underachieves despite his intellectual capacity.

As I was reading the Overheard, a Facebook group where past, present and even aspiring students share funny, bizarre, traumatic or what-have-you experiences inside the school, I came across several students’ accounts of a certain freshman who talked to himself out loud inside the campus computer laboratory. It caught my attention since I recognized it as a behavior of a PWA; my brother did the same. I continued to read on, and was disappointed to see that these students failed to demonstrate open-mindedness towards a person who behaved differently from them, quickly typecasting his actions as “weird” instead of probing for an underlying reason.

I felt like I had a duty to defend Patrick and PWAs for that matter, so I posted a long note on the Overheard’s wall explaining his condition and its characteristics. I also noted down my disappointment at their lack of tolerance and quickness to judge. I added that they should be proud that our school gave him an opportunity to learn despite his disability, proving that our school provides everyone, even those with disabilities, an equal opportunity to enter.

Fortunately, the site’s moderator took note of my message and deleted the previous posts. I was glad that my message received a lot of “likes,” with others sharing about how they marvel at his natural ability to solve difficult math problems with ease, with some even asking him for help with their homework.

Some were sympathetic, saying that they also had autistic siblings or relatives who received the same kind of reaction from others. A few even sent me personal messages apologizing for their comments, saying they didn’t know what autism was and had they been better informed, they would have not said the things they did and judged him the way they did.

An experience like this only emphasizes the importance of programs aimed at increasing awareness about autism. The number of children being diagnosed with autism increases every year (CBS Health News reported 1 in 100 children in US are now being diagnosed with autism). Thus, everyone — from the mother to the house helpers — has to be educated about recognizing symptoms, where to get a proper diagnosis, early intervention, and support groups where they can share their experiences and learn from others who are dealing with the same issue.

Many people, even the educated, still have no idea what autism is, often mistaking it for a psychological disorder or immediately identifying it with persons who bang their heads on the wall for hours on end. Though the last is a symptom, autism is a spectrum disorder that has many kinds and varying symptoms, and no two persons share the exact same set of symptoms.

On the other hand, for those who are already aware, they do not know how to handle a situation when they encounter a PWA. If more awareness programs are conducted, then hostile behavior towards PWAs would be lessened and PWAs would face less bullying or harassment.

Intervention for the children in the form of therapies would also start early and improve their condition. More laws would be passed to accommodate PWAs and more research would be done to expand knowledge about it, hopefully leading to a cure. Education is important in avoiding discriminating behavior towards PWAs. The bottom-line is: we’re all just human beings who equally deserve to be respected.


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We could not agree more with “Ate” Amaris. We are calling on schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions which aim to develop their students as responsible young citizens. Let ASP be your partner in educating your students on autism.

ASP continues to advocate nationwide for Filipino families dealing with autism through our 46 chapters. ASP Cebu Chapter will host the 2nd Regional Autism Conference on Oct. 23-24, at the SM Cebu Trade Hall. ASP Laguna Chapter will conduct a seminar on “Fundamentals in the Care and Management of Children with Autism” on Sept. 4, at the Autism Resource Center of Los BaƱos, Laguna. Call us at 929 8447 / 926 6941. Or Email us at autismphils@gmail.com

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