by Sev Arguelles
Autism is a developmental disorder affecting the brain and is usually characterized by a set of symptoms ranging from withdrawal from one’s social environment to aggressive behavior which may lead to inflicting pain on oneself. And although there have been numerous claims linking it to genetic causes, it is still of an unknown origin and an unknown cure. Nevertheless, various organizations around the world, mostly founded by parents with autistic children, have been linking the government , NGOs and the afflicted families themselves in order to help to cope both those born with autism and the people around them.
The Philippines is not spared either. A small percentage of the 90 million people in this country are also suffering from but coping up with autism. But both government and non-governmental organizations have been working hand in hand to spread awareness of autism in many parts of the country. Former President Fidel V. Ramos has signed Presidential Proclamation 711 declaring every Third Week of January is National Autism Consciousness Week in the Philippines.
The Autism Society of the Philippines (ASP), founded in 1998 and which now has 31 chapters all over the country, has spearheaded most of the activities connected with autism awareness like the very first Autism Walk in 2006, which was attended by over 2,000 members and supporters. It has also sponsored various other events for the afflicted families in the form of concerts, family days, painting contests, and even research studies and films. The documentary Philippine film “Alyana” shows how families in the Philippines struggled against autism and especially how the mothers struggled in order to cope up with the rigors of handling children born with autism. The Autism Society has also conducted numerous seminars on autism and the latest was entitled Language of Autism and held on April 25, 2009. It was geared towards improving communication between the autistic child and the people around him.
Other organizations like the Behavioral Management for Autistic Children (BMAC) have been helping out the Autism Society by providing not only awareness tools but also medical and academic assistance. BMAC boasts of its Early Intervention Home-Based Program which seeks to broaden the understanding of the parents and caregivers handling autistic children by giving out seminars, providing helpful therapy, and recommending academic programs and institutions of learning to the children.
Personally I guess the biggest and most important factor in the Filipino parents’ surviving and coping up with the pressures of having an autistic child is Faith in God. Being a country which is predominantly Catholic, Filipino parents of autistic children use God’s Word not only as a source of inspiration but as a cornerstone in al their emotional, physical, mental and spiritual struggles with the disorder. Afflicted families hold on to the messages of Deuteronomy 7: 15 “The Lord will take from thee all sickness,” and of Exodus 15:26 “I am the Lord that healeth thee.”
Autism on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism
Autism in the Philippines – http://jm_7.tripod.com/
Behavioral Management for Autistic Children – http://www.bmac-aba.com
Autism Pinoy – http://www.autismpinoy.com
Autism Society of the Philippines – http://www.autismsocietyph.org/home.html