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.

25 May 2012

School Doctors as Allies for Autism



By Tiffany Tan, ASP Correspondent

“Hindi po ako doctor,” Dang quipped to the audience as she read the ID given to her by the organizers. “…Pero ang MD ay pwede ring short for ‘Mama Dang’ because this is how people in the autism community address me. And, yes, I’m a mother to Gio, a person with autism.”


Dang was addressing the Philippine Academy of Physicians in School Health (PAPSHI) during their 13th National Annual Convention of with the theme “Effective School Health Promotion: A Key to A Healthy School Community” on May 22, 2012 at the Bayanihan Center, United Laboratories, Inc., Pioneer St., Mandaluyong City.

Dra. Maella L. Karaan is this year's convention chair and the incoming president of the PAPSHI. Acoording to Dr. Karaan, the convention aims to establish the relationship between the effective school health promotion and the improvement of school health status. Among the specific topics addressed the concerns of educational institutions regarding children with Autism and AD/HD.

Aside from ASP, another one of the Parent Support Organizations being represented is ADHD Society of the Philippines, through guest speaker Dr. Marcelino “Mark” G. Reysio-Cruz III. ASP Diliman Chapter President, Jo Palomares, who coordinated Dang’s guesting and JR Tan, Self-Advocate, came to support the event.

Dang enumerated the travails and triumphs of students who have hurdled the challenges of being in an inclusive school. Some have already graduated from college and have started budding careers. Doctor moms and relatives to children with autism were teary-eyed after her presentation.

At the request of Dang, JR Tan, self-advocate, was asked to give a short testimony. He narrated that as a toddler he was so hyperactive. Out of desperation, a so called “teacher” from a day care facility tied him to a chair and locked inside the toilet as punishment for disrupting the class. He said he still recalled struggling from the ropes, but managed to escape. Thankfully, the facility is no longer operational and is now a temporary shelter for dogs.

Children with autism and ADHD who are mainstream or included in the regular school environment are often vulnerable to bullies, due to their disability. The new DepEd Policy on Child Protection ensures that their rights will be upheld. This policy also reinforces the Magna Carta on PWDs or RA 9442, which provides for penalties and jail time to violators who would vilify or ridicule children with autism and other disabilities. Click here for more information.

After the discussions, one doctor asked for tips on how to get the cooperation of a child’s parents, whom he suspects to have autism to come to meetings to address the child’s behavioral concerns. Dang said it could be that the parent is still under denial and she encouraged the doctor on not to give up trying to reach out to the parents.

She also said that based on the personal experiences of JR Tan and Bryan Lu, their special educator requested for a meeting to give an autism orientation to incoming teachers who would be handling them for the coming school year. This meeting was able to help the teachers understand the boys better and helped them adjust to the high school environment.

Another doctor, who is a mom to a child with autism, said she chose to apply for work in the school where her son attends. She appealed to other school physicians to keep an open mind and extend compassion for children like her son.

Prior to Dang’s talk, Dr. Mark Cruz, gave an over-view on Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. He flashed a picture illustration of a boy seated on the wheelchair and asked the audience to consider this question, “Tell me honestly, on which did your eyes focused on first; the disability of the boy or his lack of access as a wheel-chair user?”

With the simple illustration, Dr. Cruz reminded fellow doctors to focus on the person first and their disability second. He said the key factors to successful integration of CWDs, are as follows: (1) to emphasize more on the abilities, rather than the limitations, (2) not to patronize them and to (3) give them choices and independence and to (4) focus on strengths rather than the challenges.

He also asked the participants to revisit the definitions of disability and handicap; and to make good use of alternative adjectives (such as stubborn vs. tenacious; oversensitive vs. intuitive, day dreamer vs. creative; and rigid vs. structured) to describe children with disabilities who are integrated in their schools.

Dr. Cruz said school physicians should be advocates first to children with special needs. He also said the ultimate goal of schools should be to help such students succeed. He also appealed to the doctors to encourage parents of CWDs in their schools to attend support groups and seminars conducted by ADHD Society and Autism Society Philippines.

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ASP looks forward to more collaboration with schools and institutions for autism awareness seminars. Interested parties may email us at autismphils@gmail.com or call us at 9298447 or 9266941.

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