In 1987, eleven mothers got together and shared their grief, their frustrations and anxieties over their children diagnosed to have autism. Each had gone through rounds of neurologists, pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists, ending up more confused. It was comforting to know for other mothers who understood, who empathized and who would help. They resolved to help other parents who, like them, needed to understand and be helped. Many hours and personal resources were spent to reach out with their message of hope.
On 08 March 1989, the Foundation for Autistic Children and Adults of the Philippines or ACAP Foundation was formally organized and recognized. The Founding Members were:
- Marinette Aglipay
- Emma V. Cruz
- Yolanda De Guzman
- Asteria S. Fernandez
- Jean F. Gonzales
- Fatima A. Kho
- Ma. Amelia Lachica
- Elizabeth R. Peralejo
- Conchita M. Ragragio
- Cecile S. Sicam
- Noida Tan
The Early Struggles
Meetings were held in private homes. Often, only a handful would come to attend these meetings. Undaunted, they continued to get together and design activities to help more people understand autism.
Magazine articles written about autism in October 1988's issue of Parent's Quarterly and an issue of Mr. and Ms. which resulted in more parents showing up for orientation. From the original 11, the organization expanded its membership to 52, coming from as far as Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Cebu.
Meager resources were not an obstacle to the prime movers of the ACAP Foundation. The group held movie benefits -- "Rainman" portrayed by Oscar award-winning Dustin Hoffman, "All I Want for Christmas," "Ipagpatawad Mo", among others, to raise funds to buy books for the reading room, to print the ACAP News, and to continue to host seminars. The enterprising members sold ACAP bears (parent-child teddy bears in an embrace) and held garage sales.
Networking efforts started early. ACAP reached out to Autism Society America, the National Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons (NCWDP) and the Kapisanan ng May Kapansanan sa Pilipinas,Inc. (KAMPI).
ACAP held its first General Assembly in August 1990 and the first Autism Tri-Sectoral Conference in April 1991. Both were occasions for sharing methods for managing persons with autism, the understanding of which many parents were in dire need. It was also a venue for parents to get to know other parents and the professionals who could help them. It gave us the golden opportunity to break out of the shell of ignorance and misunderstanding of autism.
The challenges were great, the resources few and the hands not too many. Despite the odds, ACAP forged ahead.
Breaking New Ground
In July 1993, a delegation from ACAP attended the First International Conference on Autism in Toronto, Canada. The Conference was an important milestone in ACAP's history as it put us in touch with our counterparts in other corners of the world -- 2,300 delegates from 47 countries from as far north as Norway to as far south as Australia. It indeed opened a "world of options" for managing persons with autism.
During the Fifth ACAP General Assembly in May 1994, the Foundation assumed a new name -- Autism Society Philippines -- for easier recall and to make our name similar to that of other autism organizations around the world.
In March 1995, the ASP found a new and more permanent home. Through a grant from the Danish Council of Organizations of Disabled People (DSI) and the Danish Society for Autism, we were able to put up an office, furnish it and engage the services of a full-time staff.
In 1999, the ASP was given a three-year grant for its Organizational Development Program by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and the Atlas Alliance (Norwegian International Disability Alliance) through Autism Society Norway. This program provides for parent and caregivers education in the 19 chapters of the ASP and the establishment of chapter libraries.
Philippine National Autism Conference
Every year in the following years, a national conference on autism was held for members to get together and update their knowledge about autism and the range of interventions and treatments. The national conference also afforded the ASP the venue to discuss ways by which the organization could develop to respond to the needs of its members.
1st National Conference on Autism: "Setting Directions"
28-30 April 1995, Philamlife Auditorium in Manila
2nd National Conference on Autism: "Parents and Professionals: Working Two-gether"
12-14 April 1996, PCMC Convention Hall, Quezon City
3rd National Conference on Autism: "Autism Intervention Beyond Expectation"
1997, Department of Agriculture, Quezon City
4th National Conference on Autism: "Open Minds, Open Doors: Towards More Meaningful Advocacy and Action for Autism"
24-26 April 1998
5th National Conference on Autism in 1999
"TEACCH and Touch: Caring for Persons with Autism in the New Millennium"
6th National Conference on Autism in 2000
"Adolescents and Adults with Autism: Moving Towards Independence"
7th National Conference on Autism in 2001
"Looking at Autism from a Lifespan Perspective"
8th National Conference on Autism in 2003
9th National Conference on Autism: "autismHELP"
22-23 October 2005 in Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC), Quezon City
10th National Conference on Autism: "A Life Journey with Autism: Hope After Diagnosis"
November 2007 in Philippine Columbian Association, Paco, Manila
11th National Conference on Autism: “Autism Beyond Borders: Where Hope Prevails”
24-25 October 2009 in SMX Convention Center, Pasay City
12th National Conference on Autism: “Living with Autism: Hope @ Home”
28-29 April 2012 in Crown Plaza Manila Galleria, Quezon City
13th Philippine National Autism Conference: "Hope for A Nation"
26-27 October 2013 in Meralco Multi-Purpose Hall, Pasig City