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.

11 September 2013

Will you consider stem cell therapy for your child with autism?

By: Dang U. Koe, ASP Chair Emeritus

There is no doubt that parents of persons with autism will exhaust all possible means to look for ways to improve the lives of their children. Some will even look for the “cure” at all costs literally, especially if they can afford it.

The buzz word for possible autism cure these last few years is stem cell therapy, a medical intervention that involves extracting the body’s repair cells and injecting them back to the body to replace old cells. The controversies about this therapy as autism “cure” include its high cost.

Angels Talk recently asked parent members of Autism Society Philippines the following question: If money was not an issue, will you consider stem cell therapy for your child with autism? Some were willing to take the chance while others were either cautious of trying “cures” that still need to be validated, or consider their children’s autism as a gift. Here are some of their sentiments.

“Yes, I would. Whatever will help my nine-year old Sean, I will take the chance. I accept Sean and his condition but not everyone is accepting of autism. If stem cell therapy will give Sean a chance to enjoy life like an average kid, then I will pursue this.” — JASMINE NADJA PINUGU, a parent who represents the views of 22 other respondents

“Not at this time but I am open to the possibility. I attended Dr. Samuel Bernal’s talk on this topic at Medical City early this year and even this expert is not making claims that stem cell can “cure” autism. They are still doing further studies. I have also not heard about the results on the six children who’ve undergone the test for it. The procedure is quite scary and there will surely be side effects. Until such time that the procedure becomes less invasive, I will not agree to have this procedure done to my child. I appreciate though the efforts of all the people trying to find solution to improve the lives of our children. I pray that God may guide them well.” — OLIVE MEDINA



“No. I would not subject my child to a treatment that has questionable therapeutic claims and safety issues. What we read in the news now are anecdotal reports from celebrity parents that include endorsement of a certain clinic or doctor. Our son Jorel, is doing well trying to adapt in the “normal” world. We would rather spend the money for his job or independent living training later on.” — MENCHIE ALEGRE



“NO! I love him for what he is and he was born unique. Autism is not an illness; all special children need love, support and understanding from family, friends and especially our society. Special children are God’s gift to society, to help us be humble, happy and content of what we have.” — BERNADETTE TABARES

“No, I have two autistic sons and I have learned to respect their condition as God allowed it. I asked God for wisdom in rearing them and I enjoy their company. They showered me with so much attention and love. After 20 years of searching for solution for my two boys to act normal and be able to conform to the norms of society, I have witnessed that each one of us also have abnormalities. Being with them at all given time is the best treatment. Integrating them in all house activities boost their self-esteem.”— LOURY JACOB

“Autism is not the problem. Only ACCCEPTANCE can CURE AUTISM.” — WHENG DOLLENTE

“What is the point of compelling your child to be someone he is not?” — GERARD ATIENZA

“I am happy for what I am. I am proud to be an autism angel.“ — ANDREI MORALES

“No, stem cell therapy may give good results but the procedure of subjecting the child to several (about six times) general or even local anesthesia may post long-term negative effect on my child’s brain and memory retention.” — MARY ANN LAUREANO

“I will consider it if there has been extensive scientific research on stem cell therapy and its effectiveness on autism like peer reviewed scholarly work and a considerable sample size for accurate conclusion. Since each child with autism is unique, responses to this kind of therapy will definitely be varied. That’s why it’s important that the research be extensive before it can be touted as a “cure.” However, as of now, there are no researches yet that have reached this level. I do not want my son to be used in an experiment that has not really looked into its possible side effects in the future.” — CLAUDINE ASINAS

***

Dr Antonio Dans, an epidemiologist and the president of the Philippine Society of General Internal Medicine will discuss “The Truth About Stem Cell Therapy and Autism” at the 13th Philippine National Autism Conference on October 26 and 27. Themed “Hope for ‘A’ Nation,” the confab will tackle issues and experiences relevant to an autism community that is striving for acceptance and inclusion in Philippine mainstream society.

The event is designed to provide information on developments relevant to allied medical professionals, social servants and community workers who work with autism. Most importantly, the event was created for the growing community of parents, family members and individuals on the autism spectrum who are seeking answers, quality support and fellowship.  For more details, visit http://philnac2013.wordpress.com/

This article appeared on 9 September 2013 in the print and on-line versions of Manila Bulletin's "Angels Talk" under the by-line of Dang U. Koe, ASP Chair Emeritus.

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