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.

03 June 2013

‘A’ is for autism and achievers

By: Dang U. Koe, ASP Chair Emeritus

This week’s Angel Talker is Angelica Gabrielle Navarro, student, sibling and Art editor of the Varsitarian, UST’s official campus publication. This piece represents not just an account of a family’s journey, but also the burgeoning awareness and concern of the national phenomenon that is autism on today’s youth.


Albert Einstein said, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”

My brother Luke was born healthy and perfect, and as he was growing up, it seemed that something was wrong with him. But the first thing my parents noticed was his speech delay. At the age of two, he would not speak and communicate in a non-verbal way. He was even incapable of eye contact. His gestures include a lot of hand flapping and head banging. Whenever Luke sees a man wearing eyeglasses, he would run to him and demand to be carried (this may root from the absence of my father who was working overseas at that time). In short, he lived in his own little world.

My parents decided to consult a specialist regarding my brother’s condition. Luke was diagnosed with a clinical impression of pervasive developmental disorder, otherwise known as autism. It was very hard for them, especially my mother who received the results alone because my father was abroad.

An intervention had to be made. The specialist referred my mother to a child psychiatrist who recommended a special school for my brother. Initially, she thought getting in was hard since the school was small and had limited facilities. But luckily, Luke was accommodated. After a few sessions, he showed great improvements, as he started to respond and socialize a bit.

After five years, Luke was brought back for another consultation. This time, the diagnosis showed he had slightly improved in social interaction. But he still exhibited characteristics of autistic spectrum disorder.

It was around this time that we had to move to a new home and my father was unemployed; he had given up his job to be with us, and to provide moral support for Luke.

Fortunately, there was a special education (Sped) school near the neighborhood. Here, Luke started to gain academic excellence. But then, the facilities were not enough so my parents transferred him to another Sped school which offered more services suited to his condition. True enough, his progress was so great that he was recommended to enter a regular school.

It was a big and intimidating step that had to be taken for his benefit. He was accommodated in a regular school and was treated like a normal student. He complied with his academics and even had extra-curricular activities such as taekwondo, pageant contests and speech choirs. But the best part was that he learned to become independent.

Inevitably, there were people who were unaware of his condition, and bullied him. But Luke fought back. He was able to survive high school and eventually graduated last April 5.

Luke’s next big step is to enter college. But after taking a psycho-educational evaluation, a Sped diagnostician said that he is not capable to enter college, and will find it difficult to get a degree. But this did not discourage my parents in finding ways for him to get one. Fortunately, there is a school which caters to students like him and gives a special program that provides them a chance to experience college.

This just proves that having a special child doesn’t mean you have to restrict his capabilities with what his condition dictates. It’s just a matter of support, early intervention and the right push.

I see a lot of kids (or sometimes adults) who have special needs like my brother and I can’t help but think of their future — whether they have a direction in life or they would be stuck in their condition and just depend on their families or caretakers.

The government claims to prioritize the education sector and yet the situation of special children is not really addressed. Yes, there are a lot of Sped schools and trained teachers in the country but their services are limited for those who can afford the high expenses. After K-12, I think it’s time to create a program that will cater to the less fortunate ones. Parents should also band together to raise public awareness about special children and their needs.

Special children are not special because of their disabilities. They are special because they are meant to achieve great things despite their limitations.

(Join the growing community of PWAs, professionals, parents and family members like Angelica who are seeking answers to Philippine society’s challenges for people with autism. We hope to see you at the 13th Philippine National Autism Conference, dubbed “Hope for ‘A’ Nation”, Oct. 26-27, 2013 at the Meralco Multi-Purpose Hall.)

This article appeared in print and online by Manila Bulletin on 03 June 2013.


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