Members of Autism Society Philippines were invited to the TC-YDD Parenting Seminar held last 21 May 2015 entitled "Raising Teens with Special Needs: A Parent's Guide to health, sexuality and safety." It was attended by a total of 43 parents and 26 healthcare professionals - from different associations and areas.
With continued medical advances and improving technology, more children with developmental disabilities survive into adulthood. However they are more likely to require special care to help them manage their condition, optimize their functioning and improve their overall quality of life.
In answer to these challenges, the UP-PGH Transition Clinic for Youth with Developmental Disabilities (TC-YDD) was developed this year. The Section of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, together with a team of healthcare professionals from different clinical departments - the Section of Adolescent Medicine, Department of Family & Community Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and our colleagues from the University of the Philippines Manila College of Allied Medical Professions (UP-CAMP) Transition Program – collaborated to put up the TC-YDD.
The TC-YDD’s mission is to provide a more holistic and comprehensive health assessment appropriate to the teen and their family’s current needs as well as help provide a pathway for them to be treated as adolescents or young adults in the healthcare setting.
As part of the clinic’s objective to help educate families regarding relevant issues for our teens with developmental disabilities, a series of parenting seminars was planned this year. The first seminar of the Transition Clinic was conducted last May 21, 2015 at the Dining Hall Function Room of the Philippine General Hospital with the topic of “Raising Teens with Special Needs: A Parent’s Guide to Health, Sexuality and Safety.”The talk was sponsored by Likhaan, an NGO dedicated to reproductive health education and provision of health care to women.
The first part of the seminar opened with welcome remarks from Dr. Rosa Ma. H. Nancho of Adolescent Medicine as she greeted the attendees of the seminar. This was followed by the first talk from Dr. Vanessa F. Torres-Ticzon of Adolescent Medicine about normal adolescent growth and development. An overview of social development and sexuality across the lifespan was then given by Dr. Stella Manalo of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. The morning session ended with a productive panel discussion facilitated by Dr Emma Llanto of Adolescent Medicine. The panelists shed light on many common issues regarding the awareness and education of sexuality and sexual behaviors in our teens with special needs.
Dr. Stella Manalo stressed that sexual education should start at home and be appropriate to the child or teenager’s developmental capacity and understanding. With the advent of the internet and social media, parents were advised to pay attention to the social environment that could influence their kids’ behaviors and communicate openly with their kids about it. Also, it was important that caregivers and parents handle inappropriate sexual behaviors non-judgmentally and the appropriate places and times be explained to the teens. Atty. Liezyl Pajaras of the Commission on Human Rights discussed common legal issues that parents were curious about – marriage and the right of their teens to have children of their own. Dr. Socorro Bernardino, an adolescent obstetrician-gynecologist, shared her expertise by discussing the available options for contraception in youth with developmental disabilities. Issues such as menstrual hygiene and how to explain these to the teen with special needs were also discussed. During the open floor session, numerous questions and testimonials from parents and other caregivers emphasized how relevant and important the issues were to them and their families.
The afternoon session was capped off by a discussion on teaching our children to stay safe by Dr. Melissa Ramboanga of the PGH- Child Protection Unit and Ms. Priscilla “Peachy” Fernando, a clinical psychologist specializing in teens and children with emotional & behavioral problems. The participants were then divided into small groups and acted out their responses to common scenarios regarding teen safety and sexuality. On the whole, the parents, caregivers and professionals gave overwhelmingly positive feedback about the seminar and the majority expressed their desire to attend similar talks in the future.
About the contributor: Dra. Pauline Camposano, Developmental Pediatrician, who were one of the organizers of the seminar.