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.

03 November 2010

Raising Andrei

By Cathy S. Babao-Guballa, Philippine Daily Inquirer


Raising a child with special needs takes a special kind of love, a special kind of parent. Acceptance, resilience and unconditional love make all the difference in raising such a child. Advocating for him and going the distance make the stories of Mariter and Arthur Macapagal, all the more exemplary and heartwarming.


Andrei was born to Arthur and Mariter on Sept. 20, 1966. At around age 5, he was diagnosed with autism. Their family’s journey from Andrei’s early days, to his diagnosis and treatment is documented in the book, “Our Andrei : Living With Autism,” as told by Arthur, Mariter and Andrei’s siblings Alex and Melissa to writers Reynaldo G. Alejandro and Vicente Roman S. Santos.


ASP Trustee Mariter Macapagal with son Andrei and husband Arthur


In the ’70s autism was not a familiar concern. It is to the Macapagal family’s credit that they didn’t keep Andrei’s condition a secret. “It took many years to accept and to understand what it was that Andrei had, but it never occurred to me or Arthur to hide this fact from the public. Andrei was our son and so we wanted, and did all we could to get him the help he needed to make him lead as close to a normal life as possible,” Mariter tells this writer over lunch at the family home one Saturday afternoon.


A few years after his diagnosis, Mariter decided to pursue graduate studies in Special Education at the University of the Philippines, upon the encouragement of Andrei’s psychiatrist, Dr. Adoracion Tanega. Going back to school, she says, helped her tremendously in understanding Andrei’s condition and in rallying the family for him.


After earning her MA in Special Education, she served as executive director of the Cupertino School for Special Children in La Vista, Quezon City, a position she holds to this day. A few years later, she returned to school, for Ph.D in Educational Administration.


Her dissertation, focused on parental coping styles which she found to be divided into either rational coping, which was indicated by answers like I consulted a psychologist, or through emotional coping indicated by replies such as I prayed or I found faith in God.” The outcome, she says, revealed that more Filipino parents employ the emotional coping styles and those who do, have children who outperform those of rational parents.


Emotional parents demonstrate greater resiliency, readily bouncing back to the difficult task of raising their children.”


Mariter chose the emotional approach in raising Andrei. “My findings showed me that sometimes emotional outbursts are necessary because their cathartic and purgative effects unburden the weary soul. The emotional approach fortifies the spirit, and helps one hope in the face of great challenges. God gave us Andrei, I was certain He would give us the means to take care of him.”


Andrei, now 44, reads and comprehends at the level of a second grader. He is self-sufficient to a certain degree, paints and enjoys watching TV with his parents.


Mariter says, Though he will never understand the world fully as a normal person, the little that he does has liberated him from a very limited reality. The love and support have given Andrei a more human and humane life.”


“ACCEPT THE CHILDREN the way we accept trees— with gratitude, because they are a blessing-but do not have expectations or desires. You don’t expect trees to change, you love them as they are.”—Isabel Allende


The article is uploaded with permission from Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Click here to read the original post.


Acknowledgements:

Ms. Cathy Babao- Guballa (Writer)

Ms. Thelma San Juan (Lifestyle Editor)

Ms. Chelo Banal- Formoso (Editor- Learning)

Mr. Mike Suarez (Inquirer News Service Editor)

Mr. Isagani Yambut (PDI Publisher)


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Mariter Jalandoni Macapagal currently serves as ASP Board of Trustee. The book “Our Andrei” Living with Autism is available at ASP National Office. For bulk orders, please call 926-6941 or 9298447. Proceeds of the sale will go to ASP’s Endowment Fund.

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