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.

18 June 2012

Amazing fathers

By Dang U. Koe, ASP Chairman Emeritus.

Father Romeo Rodriguez and son Rolo.
Photo credit:  Arthur Bellosillo III.
The world waxes lyrical about heroic fathers in our midst every third Sunday of June — when hand-wrapped gifts of neckties and electronics are prepped, and restaurants are packed.

But no one deserves more praise than the father to children with autism.

“Special dads” may not have the opportunity to play basketball one-on-one or ride a bike with their child, but the unlikelihood of sharing these traditional dad-child passions makes their fatherhood a more deliberate, if not more engaging, adventure.

Our new angel talker is the newly-elected secretary of Autism Society Philippines’ national board of trustees. Mom Mona received degrees in Business Administration, Applied Economics and Strategic Marketing from the University of the Philippines, University of Asia and the Pacific and the London School of Business, respectively. She is a wife and a mom to three kids — her eldest is 19-year old PWA Carl, whom she has been working with over the past two years to establish and to grow his budding entrepreneurial venture “Gregarious Gifts”. As an ASP member, she has taken her autism rights advocacy into the social media arena by blogging and tweeting about her many adventures as “Mighty Magulang”.

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No doubt, moms have very important roles to play; but many fathers of children with autism have earned their niche by embracing that which comes naturally to them.

The Disciplinarian. Papa Carl has been a strong force in the life of his son with autism, Rupert, 12. He makes Rupert understand why something is wrong in very concrete terms like cause and effect — sometime through skits!

When tensions arise, Carl speaks in a calm voice, careful not to aggravate the situation. In parties and family gatherings, Carl stays close to Rupert and introduces him to relatives, includes Rupert in the conversation and reels him in when the child is tempted to act out. The calm sternness and yes, the physical strength of men, are ideal when children need to be managed into staying still or acting appropriately in social situations.

The Teacher. Gabriel, a nine-year-old boy with autism, has not yet discovered speech; but Daddy Glenn has made this the very reason to spend every spare minute with him. Glenn attends to Gabriel’s every need and has discovered a special bonding activity both of them enjoy — building model airplanes. Engaging in objective-driven tasks help address the physical or behavioral deficits of a child is important. The ability of the parents to tandem and to share these tasks ensure continuous exercise towards mastery.

The Friend. Daddy Rhene loves playing with his son with autism, Calvin, 6. Considering Calvin’s difficulty in making friends, Rhene is very hands-on and has become his no. 1 playmate. Considering communication and social skills is a recognized weakness in children with autism, playing with your child teaches them rules of play and social graces which will be increasingly important as they age.

The Mentor. Vicente Rubio, director of Pathfinder Mentoring, stressed the importance of early mentoring in young individuals with autism, in his seminars on “Autism and Mentoring Life Skills Through the Ages” held in the Philippines this month. Fathers are often the brains behind the rites of passage — an important milestone to make children understand that they are growing up. As simple as taking public transportation for the first time or taking a bath by himself, these rites of passage help mark the individual’s progress towards self-awareness and independence.

Fathers who have made a conscious decision to be agents of positive change in their children’s lives and who have transcended the anger, shame and embarrassment of having a child with autism, deserve our respect and our recognition. Thank you to the amazing autism ama! Happy Fathers’ Day!

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ASP monthly family support group meetings are open to all families dealing with autism. No fees required. Mother facilitator on June 23 is Elizabeth B. Udquin, ASP National Board trustee and UP-CAMP chapter president. For details, log on to autismsocietyphilippines.blogspot.com or follow us at Facebook and Twitter.

This article appears in the print and on-line versions of the Manila Bulletin.

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