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.

15 June 2011

Seeing Things in a Different Light

By: Anthea Peña, ASP Bacoor Chapter


About the author: Anthea Peña is the sister of Muneer, teen with autism. She regularly volunteers in ASP activities and also contributes articles to ASP’s blog. Currently, she is a freshman at De La Salle Health Sciences Institute taking up Occupational Therapy and wants to have a career in helping other special children in the future.


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To be honest, I had not expected for the Siblings Encounter in Cavite to materialize. From its fluid stage of planning less than a month ago, everybody was hustling and bustling about their concerns and jobs. Ten siblings responded to the invitations via email and text brigades. Ten responded, but later were reduced to seven. Nevertheless, we pursued the “Siblings Encounter” as planned.


When the Chapter considered me as a co-facilitator, I accepted this as a challenge. But even after my four-time experience, I wasn’t confident enough. Being a sibling of a person with autism myself, I had my own battles. I worried, I might be found wanting. I am currently undergoing a new phase in my life. And because of college matters, my mind was in a clutter.


In the days that followed, excitement finally surged up in me. Most especially when we inquired about the venue and its amenities —Kubo Camp for Christ at Silang, Cavite. A fair distance from the downtown, I instantly admired the whole place - a garden of different species of flora – a place you just could not find anywhere else.


In the early preparations, I tried to make of myself be of great help to the team-Mama Jan our house parent, my mentors, Teacher My and Teacher Kismette, also our documentor, Kuya Buboy, who was supposed to be a sibling participant but turned to a co-facilitator, and of course my brother, Muneer, the house assistant.


For my part, I ushered the siblings to register, or cut posters. But the best part was being assigned as the disc jockey by my mom. I was in charge of the background music during our sessions. And as a little reminder that the event was not just for siblings with autism, I chose to play Christian Songs, as a thanksgiving offering to God, who in the first place, made all these things possible.


Participants of the Siblings Workshop


Three girls were assigned to me to co-facilitate, KC, Julie, and Alex. I encouraged them to spill their feelings and be open about experiences with their siblings with autism. Two of them ended up misty eyed, something I’d never seen in my four-year experience as a co-facilitator in Siblings Encounter. I shared my own experiences, too. The pains I’d gone through, together with the rewarding and happy things that happened in the journey of autism with my brother, Muneer. I also gave them some advice, which I believed they took well.


The bonfire activity at the end of the day was something the siblings looked forward to, and I did too. To tell you the truth, it was my first time to work with hotdogs and marshmallows over the controlled fire! It was the best bonding time I had with the ladies. I didn’t mind the smell of smoke sticking to my clothes. We created so much noise during the picture taking, we laughed, and we complained, all at the same time; but in a good-natured way. It was so fun!


Things went smoothly the next day. The last activities were done with smiles on the girls’ faces. I now see things in a different light, for I see them now, with the eyes of a co-facilitator. I felt different, in a sense, gratifying—even edifying. I would keep all these things in my pocket, as I go on with my own journeys in life.


Teacher My once told me that there is a high probability of siblings of persons with autism taking the disability path – the helping side, I mean. Thus, I had begun as early as now, to take up the challenge, as a freshman in Occupational Therapy.

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