This article appeared on 2 June 2014 in the print and on-line versions of Manila Bulletin's "Angels Talk", by Dang U. Koe, ASP Chair Emeritus.
When we first learned that our son Enzo has autism, my spouse and I cried together and found support and strength from each other. It helped me a lot to feel that I am not alone,” shared Enzo’s father, Mario Medina who is an active ASP chapter leader in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
During the first decade of Autism Society Philippines’ 25th year existence, fathers attending seminars, conferences and other events were rare sightings. Baring their hearts out was even rare. Thankfully, that is no longer true these days.
To celebrate the fathers who took the challenge of raising children with autism heads on, Angels Talk posted 3 questions that generated overnight a lot of respondents among father members of ASP. Here are some of them.
What is your advice for fathers of newly diagnosed children?
OFW Dad Jun Aquino of 9-year old Nathan enumerates the following advice: (1) Take "time out". If you need to cry then so be it. Accept the fact and reject denials. (2) Be supportive of your wife. You should be the stronger one. Give her comfort. (3) Plan. Look for the best therapies near your area. Prepare your financials. Learn the government benefits for persons with autism (PWA). (4) Study. Read medical textbooks in autism. Watch seminars on autism (there are tons in YouTube), and fill yourself with information. (5) Be your child's best therapist at home.
Danny Fernandez, Jr, father of 5yo Ayel advises fathers to be “physically fit to play wrestling for hours; emotionally ready for day to day surprises; intellectually equipped with creative stories and role playing scenes because your sons will love to do and explore all these things with you.”
Daddy Joey Baldomero of 7yo Hana wrote: “Focus on the present and the future; don't dwell on the past. There is really no point looking for what caused your child's autism. Your child needs you focused not on who he could have been, but on who he is and who he can be.”
How do you enrich your relationship with your CWA and your other children?
The proud father of IBM-employed Yanna, Albert Aragon of Chain Reaction, instills among his other children the feeling of being responsible for their special sister. “My wife and I love and care for Yanna while at the same time showing the same love and affection to the other siblings. You have to be patient and be able to make them understand early.”
Daddy Jun practices “No favoritism; I treat Nathan and Naomi just the same. Also, whenever Naomi asks why her kuya behaves differently, we always try our best to explain kuya's situation to her. By this, we feel that she will be more understanding and be aware.”
Daddy Mario relates that Enzo and his sister has a 9-year gap. It was quite challenging to make Enzo adapt to having a sister at home. “We give Enzo and his sister a lot of time being together as well as being apart. We make Enzo feel that he is a big brother by giving him simple tasks that he can do for his sister - like packing away her baby things or shaking her milk bottle.”
Former ASP National Board Trustee Evert Malapad reversed roles with his wife when he decided to take charge of Maemae’s education program himself. “Since my wife and I are actively involved in ASP, we expose our other child to various ASP activities for her to personally witness the many colors of autism, and how other families are able to successfully cope with having a child/sibling with autism in their midst.”
What is your biggest challenge as a father of a PWA?
Daddy Albert finds realigning his time, priorities and financial resources to help his daughter Yanna. Aside from the financial challenges, Daddy Jun worries about bullies and Nathan’s future, “will he have a job, a family? Will he be independent?” Aside from being able to provide financial and spiritual support, Alex Pangga wishes that his two special sons 17yo Lance and 14yo Patrick “will grow old with me and survive any obstacle they will face in their future.”
Daddy Mario’s biggest challenge is handling Enzo’s behavior as he can be aggressive at times; Enzo is non verbal, has difficulty communicating his needs and this can often result to aggression. “We have to help him learn other forms of communication and spend more time with him so we can understand him better.”
Daddy Danny wants to tell the world that autism is not a disease that needs a cure, but a condition that needs to be understood. Daddy Joey agrees with him that the world is the biggest challenge. “Not everyone has the patience for kids acting up. When something sets my daughter's tantrums off in public, I find myself soothing her and the people around me. It can be a very exhausting experience. That's why it's always an amazing feeling when someone, a stranger, lends a helping hand or says a kind word. Thankfully, there are still plenty of people who do. We need more kindness and compassion in this world for people with special needs.”
ASP institutional member Center for Autism and Related Disorders is holding the 3rd Good Autism Practice Conference: “Autism Across the Ages” which will be held on June 29, 2014. For inquiries, please email email@example.com.
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