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.

30 July 2012

Sporting Dreams

By: Dang Uy Koe, ASP Chair Emeritus



















The world is abuzz with Olympic excitement as the 2012 Summer Olympic Games kicked off in London over the weekend.

Equally exciting to many in the PWD community is the 2012 Paralympic Games to which the Philippine sent nine differently-abled athletes, the largest in our country’s history.

ASP national secretary, Mona Magno-Veluz (@mightymagulang on Twitter), returns as this week’s Angel Talker.

The Paralympics

The Paralympic (“Para” means beside) movement began in 1949 when German neurologist Sir Ludwig Guttmann from the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire, England held sports events for soldiers injured in World War II, as a form of therapy.  Dr. Guttmann organized the 1948 International Wheelchair Games to coincide with the 1948 London Olympics.

The Paralympics, by and large, is open to physically-challenged athletes. A ban was imposed on athletes with learning disabilities after the Sydney Games in 2000, when the Spanish basketball team was stripped of its gold medals after some members were accused of faking learning disabilities.

In 2012, the learning disabled is again welcomed in three major Paralympic events — swimming, athletics and table tennis.  The organizing committee mandates that each learning disability athlete go through a rigid process of IQ and cognitive skills assessments.

The Philippines first joined the 1988 Paralympic Games in Seoul, Korea, sending four athletes. In the 2000 Games in Sydney, Adeline Dumapong, who had polio and was one of only two representatives, won the country’s first — and so far only — Paralympic medal when she took bronze in powerlifing.  The Philippines sent representatives in 2004 and in 2008; but medals were elusive.

Considering the lifting of the controversial ban on athletes with learning disabilities, we are looking forward to seeing the Philippine Sports Association for the Differently-Abled field athletes with physical, as well as mental difficulties (like autism) in the coming years. We look forward to full inclusion in the grass-roots sports training, which develops athletes for Paralympic participation. If our win-haul at the Special Olympics is any indication, the Philippines should be able to improve our medal count at the next quadrennial sporting event.

The Special Olympics

Began by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in the 1960s, the Special Olympics is a non-profit humanitarian organization has provided a global venue to showcase the athletic prowess of individuals with intellectual disability.

Owen Miller, 21, a runner from Dunfermline who has autism, was among the many Special Olympics athletes who were chosen as torchbearers for the 2012 Olympic Games.  He has been involved with Special Olympics since he was 14 and came close to qualifying for the 2012 Paralympics.

The Special Olympics in the Philippines has a long and proud tradition of success the international competitions.  The Filipino autism community cheers for our very own set of world-class athletes.

Mike Almendrala is a world-class Filipino powerlifter who has garnered medals in multiple world games. In 2005, Mike bagged the Apolinario Mabini Award and distinction of being the first person with autism to gain Civil Service eligibility.

Magiting Gonzales is a powerlifter who has garnered medals multiple times in several international competitions such as the 2003 World Games in Dublin, Ireland, the 2007 World Games in Shanghai and the 2011 World Games in Athens.  Magiting works full-time at the National Youth Commission Library.

Dacki San Diego participated in the 2007 World Games in Shanghai, China and won the gold medal in the badminton events.  Outside the badminton court, Dacki is a voracious reader and a lover of current events.  Dacki was also the first Filipino global messenger selected by Special Olympics International and was one of the athlete guests at the 2008 Idaho World Winter games.

Sports training, like any therapy, provide intellectually disabled men and women continuing opportunities to develop fitness, to demonstrate courage, to experience joy and to make new friends.

You don’t need money to go outdoors and play catch with your child.  But if you want to put him on a track for competitive sports, check your local public school for sports programs open to special children or find out what events our friends at the Special Olympics Philippines (http://www.sophilippines.org/) have lined up.

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This article appeared in the print and on-line versions of the Manila Bulletin on 29 July 2012.

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