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.

01 June 2018

The “Tuklas” of an Atenean on the Spectrum

Last March 25, 2018, I graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University together with the rest of my BS Computer Science 2018 batchmates. As I looked back at how I was able to survive college as an ASD student with the help and grace of God, I came to the conclusion that it was indeed a memorable time which changed my perspective for the rest of my life. Our batch has been called “Tuklas”, which could be translated as “Discover” in English. What follows is a brief summary of my experiences back in my days as an Atenean and how my quest for “Tuklas” ultimately led me to realize that there are indeed people who accepted me and supported me all throughout my studies.

For instance, there were my very considerate and caring friends and classmates that I have met in my entire four-year stay as a BS Computer Science student in Ateneo. During the Orientation Seminar for all Atenean newbies, I initially felt “out-of-place” because of new people and new places, but thank God, I was able to make new friends in that event. In fact, during an activity, most of my blockmates (aka my newfound peers) described me as an energetic, friendly, and a kind person. And in the years that follow, my colleagues were indeed a great help to me in that they guided me in my behavioral, moral, and spiritual maturity. Above all, they show no discrimination and favoritism. And speaking of which, I should never forget as well the organizations which further hone my skills and my advocacies, most notably the Computer Society of the Ateneo (CompSAt), Ateneo Mathematics Society (AMS), Ateneo Special Education Society (SPEED), and my Every Nation Campus Bible Study Group.

I should also not forget to mention the professors, staff, and subjects that made the most impact in the way I think about myself and others. My mentors from the Office of Student Services and Office of Guidance Counseling helped me to adjust to the new social environment at the Ateneo despite having ASD. The Introduction to Ateneo Cultures and Traditions (InTACT) program allowed me get to know more of myself and become more appreciative and open to others, my family, my country, and above all, to the Lord God Almighty whom I serve. My professor who taught General Psychology saw my potential to be an encouragement to others as an advocate for people with ASD. Along with others, I was chosen to take a course in Problem Solving Techniques and even went as far as coaching Ateneo Junior High School students for the Ateneo Mathematics Olympiad. Through Science and Society, I became very interested most especially in nutrition, health, and urban planning. A study in the life and works of Jose Rizal made me aware of the social and economic problems of the Philippines. Courses in Theology and Philosophy led me to further reflect on action for justice and the importance of community in helping out solve issues. Together with my group mates, our undergraduate thesis on eye-tracking provided the Ateneo Laboratory for the Learning Sciences with new insights on the differences on how novice and expert programmers read, understand, and debug code written in the Java programming language.

Besides the very accommodating people whom I encountered in my stay in Ateneo, there were other things I did which not only further my advocacy for people with special needs but also those which benefit all social sectors. Some of the events where I got involved in include Ateneo Mathematics Olympiad, as a coach for Grade 7 students, and later the Grade 8 students, Ateneo Summer Programming Camp, as a secretariat for the teachers class and as a tutor for the students class, Ateneo Center for Educational Development, where I joined in the feeding program of the Ateneo Blueplate for Better Learning as part of my Immersion requirements, and TALAB 2018, where I volunteered and assisted Ateneo SPEED. Outside of Ateneo, I also spend time teaching kids at Sunday School. And that does not end there. As of this writing, I am currently taking up my MS CS STRAIGHT program in my alma mater and I have plans on either continuing eye-tracking studies which started back in my undergraduate thesis, or to create a new educational application altogether. Either way, these proposals aim to benefit people with special needs, more specifically children with ASD like me. In addition, I plan to finish the “construction” of my children’s educational blog entitled “The Adventures of Zene and Zeanne”, which teaches about Christianity and Philippine Culture. I’ll continue to support Autism Society Philippines and Best Buddies Philippines and I’m thankful to be a member of those organizations.

Let me conclude this article by going back to the graduation ceremony itself. In one portion of the event, I, together with the other JGSOM and SOSE graduates, were blessed and privileged to have Ms. Roselle Ambubuyog, a visually-impaired Atenean who graduated Class Valedictorian of Batch 2001, as our keynote speaker. But of all that she said in her speech that day, these statements stood out for me: “Desire to inspire, and serve without reserve... Never underestimate your capacity to inspire and be inspired.... Commit to excellence in service and don’t settle for ‘good enough’” (Ambubuyog). Let me tell you this: Don’t let your disability be an excuse for you not to be used by God for His wonderful purposes for this world. Psalm 139:14 says “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Thus, I challenge you, the next time you think that you can’t do it because of your weaknesses, say “With God, everything is possible!” (Matthew 19:26). Above all, I invite you to always “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5-6).

Works Cited: Ambubuyog, Roselle R. “Seeing by Insight.” Ateneo de Manila University Commencement Exercises 2018. Ateneo de Manila University Commencement Exercises 2018, 25 May 2018, Quezon City, Ateneo De Manila University.

About the contributor: Ezekiel Adriel D. Lagmay graduated with a bachelors degree in Computer Science in 2018 from the Ateneo de Manila University. He earned Magna Cum Laude honors and his course's Program Awardee. This budding academician is moving on to take his Master's degree in Computer Science from the same institution.


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