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.

17 December 2012

SPEDtacular events for ‘exceptional’ students



Photo Credits By Daphne Tan


By DANG UY-KOE, ASP Chair Emeritus

A painting exhibit and a variety show featuring special-needs students from various schools were the highlights of the Exceptionality Awareness Week at the University of Santo Tomas. UST’s Special Education (SPED) Department led the celebration held from Nov. 26 to Dec. 1.

Angel Talkers Tiffany Tan and her son JR, an autism self-advocate, teamed up to cover the events.

ART AS THERAPY

University of Santo Tomas’ Guild of Thomasian Speducators (GuTS), in coordination with The Interior Design Innovators (IDI), held an exhibit titled “Masterpiece: Looking through the Art of Someone Special” during the Exceptionality Awareness Week.

Jennica Gan, president of GuTS, said the project aims to spread awareness of persons with disabilities through visual art. Featured artists with autism were Andre Macapagal and Michelle de Jesus; Clarissa Tiongson-Ortiz with Down Syndrome, and Jeremy Ng who has hearing impairment.

Now on its second year, the project seeks to become a travelling exhibit among the colleges within the university. Gan said that they chose to use the word exceptionality instead of disability to help Thomasians appreciate the abilities of these artists, and not limit them to their diagnoses.

To further educate Fine Arts students on autism, Lilia de Jesus, associate professor of College of Fine Arts (CFAD) in Interior Design, gave a seminar on autism awareness. Prof. De Jesus is the mother of Michelle, one of the featured artists. She narrated her difficult journey in finding answers from doctors, hurdling financial expenses, and juggling the time between work and family.

Paula Beatriz, a third year student and one of the organizers of the event, said that having a brother with autism led her to take up Special Education. She also said the artists' parents thought of how to channel their children's energy through art expression; thus the exhibit.



The best examples of PWAs who’ve gained significant development through art therapy are Andrei Macapagal and a young woman named Michelle. A part of the book “Our Andrei: Living with Autism,” talked about Andrei’s fascination with painting. Painting has, in fact, kept him focused for longer periods than any other activity. “It drew out the best in him, beyond his limited world. His works had insight and reaped accolades even from individuals who had no clue who the artist with autism was,” an excerpt from the book stated.

For Michelle, art therapy made her less irritable and enthusiastic about painting. She likes to paint flowers, butterflies, and is drawn to anything fashionable and chic. A story about her on the 2008 Woman Today Asia revealed that she has gradually developed her own style and usually uses sunny and cheerful colors.

The UST exhibit which included these inspiring stories, proved that art can indeed be a therapy and the easiest and most effective communication for people with autism.

NO BARRIERS

Culminating the weeklong celebration was a variety show dubbed “Spedtacular” at the UST’s Medicine Auditorium. The theme was “Living the Dream with Hope for Acceptance.”

GuTS and UST College of Education Student Council hope that through the show, people will see that there is no barrier for disability and see the differently abled in a different light.

The variety show featured song numbers from ASP Dream Girls Thara Santiago and Nica Escasiñas, Dustin Monteloyola of ASP UP-CAMP, and students from Independent Living Learning Center (ILLC); dance numbers by students of the Philippine Deaf Institute and ILLC; and a fashion show by students of The Child’s World, UST Models, and GuTs pageant candidates. Adding excitement were a mime and black light performance from Siena College, and a Disney play by orphans with multiple disabilities from Elsie Gaches Village.

Brina Kei Maxino, a 16-year-old student with Downs Syndrome gave an inspirational speech while Special Olympics International chose Brina as the youth ambassador to the 2013 Asia-Pacific Global Youth Activation Summit in Korea.

ASP Dream Girls Thara and Nica said it all through one of their songs “Patuloy ang Pangarap.” “Sa isang pangarap, ako’y naniniwala…hindi ako titigil hangga’t alam kong ako’y patungo sa marami pang tagumpay!”

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This article appeared in print and online by Manila Bulletin on 17 December 2012.

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