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.

03 December 2013

Pushing beyond boundaries of autism through art

Autism Society Philippines’ former board trustee, Cristina Estampador, is our Angel Talker this week. Chris is a mother to two boys, Henry and Derek who are in the autism spectrum, a blogger (Eclectic Journals) and one who is into esoteric practices and quantum science. She recently facilitated Project HeART for Autism Society Philippines and Metrobank Foundation.

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Art has long been seen as a powerful means of self-expression. The process of art making has been recognized to ignite movements, evoke emotion and open communication in visual and theatrical forms.

Combined with the science of psychology, art plays the role not only of communicator and educator but also as a healer due to its therapeutic and experiential nature. This, therefore, brings to light its own field in psychology: art psychotherapy.


This marriage of science and artistic practices gave birth to “Project HeART,” an art therapy program by Metrobank Foundation’s Metrobank Art & Design Excellence – Network Of Winners (MADE-N.O.W.). MADE-N.O.W is the alumni organization of the Foundation’s 29-year art and design program, MADE. Past winners who are painters, sculptors, interior designers and architects become a part of this organization which aims to implement projects that “pay it forward” to the community.

The first-of-its-kind art therapy program, Project HeART uses the science of art psychotherapy and the technical skills of the artists. In consultation with clinical psychologist Dr. Grace Brillantes-Evangelista, MADE-N.O.W., with the support of Metrobank Foundation, Inc. partnered with the Autism Society Philippines for “HeART for Healing: art therapy for children with autism.”

Fourteen adolescent children with autism and other special needs participated in the weekly art therapy workshop sessions with volunteer artists from MADE-N.O.W: Noell El Farol, Salvador Ching, Rex Tatlonghari, Ferdinand Doctolero, Jonathan Dangue, Thomas Dacquioag and Dr. Evangelista. The workshop aimed to utilize artistic practice in order to discover talent, open lines of communication and explore possibilities of self-discovery for the child.

The children were introduced to different art making mediums and techniques such as basic drawing, watercolor techniques, sculpture and mixed media. More than learning about creativity, both parents and participants engaged in activities for self discovery, visual communication and exploration of positive emotions. All these were supervised by a clinical psychologist.

Through the various sessions, the participants learned more about themselves and their personality through mixed media portraits. A unique visual conversation between the parent and the child resulted in better understanding as HeART for Healing was designed to include parent-child participation in the exploration of shared memories and feelings of happiness.

Watercolor as a medium was used to explore the child’s focus, expressions of release and interpersonal relations through a collaborative artwork for the whole class. Symbols of healing, empowerment and self-transformation were transformed into tangible sculptures, which served as a reminder that they are equipped and empowered to express to the best of their potentials.

HeART for Healing is the first of several art therapy projects to be conducted and supervised by a team of clinical psychologists, occupational therapists and professional artists. Metrobank Foundation, Inc., MADE-N.O.W. and Autism Society Philippines embarked on this journey of self discovery and empowerment to promote the transformative effect of art practice in discovering ones’ full potential. Pioneer organizations hope to continue this endeavor in collaboration with other groups.

AT PROJECT HEART, children with autism and special needs participate in art therapy workshop sessions. Photos show (clockwise from above left) students working on a collaborative piece; artist Buddy Ching giving a lesson on clay sculptures; and the workshops’ special needs participants.

The ASP will celebrate its 25th year with various activities. The highlight is the Angels Walk for Autism on Jan 19, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. The event which also marks the 18th National Autism Consciousness Week, attracts thousands of participants from all over the country, through simultaneous walks organized by ASP’s provincial chapters. Sign up on-line for free tickets at http://bit.ly/angelswalk2014.

This article appeared on 02 December 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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