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.

13 September 2011

My First FSG Experience

By: Glenn Joseph Q. Obach, Father of a PWA

About a week before the August 20 Family Support Group (FSG) Meeting, I introduced myself to Mr. Ranil Sorongon, Executive Director of the Autism Society Philippines (ASP). I expressed to him how I’d like to be a part of the organization. As we conversed, we found out that we have met three years ago, in Iligan City, during an autism awareness campaign (and staging of the documentary film, Alyana – A Study of Autism in the Philippines). After we talked, Mr. Sorongon open-handedly invited me to the FSG Meeting scheduled on a Saturday.
(inset) Glenn Joseph Obach, Father of a PWA with FSG Facilitator Evert Malapad (stripe polo shirt) and other participants

I didn’t exactly know how this FSG Meeting would proceed, or what I would learn or what I would share, if at all. I just felt that I wanted to be there. I guess homesickness had something to do with it. For more than a year now, I’ve lived here in Manila (for work) away from my family. I used to be a hands-on dad back home, sending my kids to school every day and being on-call for them any time of the day even when I was in my office. In their school, I would regularly speak with the administrators, the teachers and the staff, and even my kids’ classmates and their parents/grandparents/carers.

I showed up at the FSG Meeting which turned out to be free-flowing. Handled by an able professional who’s both a parent of a child with autism (CWA) and an educator, that afternoon’s session went well and culminated providing a number of insights for all the attendees. It was a small group but since it was composed of people who were strangers to each other and who were under different circumstances, it was a bit of a challenge to focus on one particular scenario. However, the following perspectives seem to manifest at the end of that gathering:

**** Autism as a disorder affects the family in unique ways, yet we understand each other completely as family members experience and react, albeit differently, to denial, anger, rejection, resentment, and bitterness.

**** Given more time and at varying degrees of open-mindedness and patience, we come to terms with our own manner of acceptance. In time, we learn to cope. Then, we learn to teach our CWA cope too.

**** Significantly, we need other people to understand our condition to keep our sanity intact. The family must primarily be its own untiring advocate. Relatives and friends matter a lot too. They provide us the encouragement we need to move on and face the challenges head on. And ultimately, we hope that the community we live in understands too. They play a crucial role in identifying the practical role our children with special needs can partake, in a society where everyone can be a contributor to progress.

**** And yes, as it should be, there is hope! No matter where in the spectrum a CWA is or whatever the severity of the disability is, there is hope for everyone.

There’s so much more we can do. The first step, of course, is within us. Explore that and the next steps should follow.

Being with people who share the same passion for autism advocacy can keep things moving forward. These FSGs, in particular, can facilitate a whole lot more for all us. Let us keep this alive.

Special thanks to Mr. Evert L. Malapad, the current president of ASP – Metro South Chapter and Auditor of ASP National Office, who was our FSG facilitator that day, and to the three dedicated ASP personnel who stayed the whole time in the office that raining (also figuratively) afternoon.


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