PEACE, LOVE, AND AUTISM
During my days in college, I was assigned to spend my clinical hours at the Paaralan ng Pag-ibig at Pag-asa, a recognized center for special education situated in San Pablo City, Laguna. Taking full advantage of this opportunity, I immersed myself in the students' classes. At first I was very objective, approaching the subject with a cold, scientific attitude. However, as the days rolled into each other, I found my reserve melting away. I felt accepted by the children who didn't even understand me most of the time because I wasn't at all adept with the variety of gestures used to represent persons, objects, emotions, and even something so complex as time. Nevertheless, the children treated me with respect, showered me with innocent kisses, and sought my warm embrace. I had only known them for a few days, and yet here they were, clinging to me as if we had been bosom buddies for years. I was touched.
On a darker note, I also found out that some relatives have a tendency to leave their kin at the school once they discover that coping with the disorder is no easy matter. Yes, there were only a few students who remained at the school beyond class hours, but it was still distressing to see the students with their faces downcast as they waved goodbye while everybody else left.
Since then I have wanted to be an advocate of this great cause: to help people understand that autism, although undesirable for most, is not a disease. Therefore, individuals diagnosed with such a disorder should not be shunned nor ridiculed. Instead, people within their environment should learn to demonstrate their love in ways that go beyond the conventional methods of communication.
After working my fingers on my laptop, I came upon the website of the Autism Society Philippines (ASP), a national, nonprofit organization aimed at providing much-needed help to people with the disorder, as well as assisting their families in coping with this situation. Their methods range from facilitating support groups, educating the public regarding the disorder, and conducting seminars and conferences to ensure that the community remains updated with the latest medical trends and the most accurate information. In October 2009, ASP held the 11th National Conference and 1st Southeast Asian Conference on Autism, entitled Autism Beyond Borders, in Manila. The subjects of the lectures ranged from new methods of therapy for autistic children to autism-associated seizures, each given by a notable and highly respected speaker.
As an afterthought, I can only wish I could have attended the conference. I believe that holding these conferences greatly contributes to the community's growing awareness. Autism as a disorder is difficult to understand. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder which affects an individual's socialization, communication, and biological processes. The disorder can be found in any country in the world and affects individuals from all socioeconomic classes. Children with autism can be identified by certain facial features and unusual behaviors, which are usually repetitive. The specific cause of the disorder is still unknown to researchers and under the circumstances, there is no cure for it, although it can be treated. There are many institutions which offer special education tailored for children with autism disorder. With the cooperation of these children's parents, this disorder's negative effect can be lessened considerably. David Lopez, diagnosed with autism at age 3, is a testament to the change that proper education, love, and patience can bring. In 2007, he graduated from the Lyceum Institute of Technology in Calamba City with a degree in AB Communications and is hopeful that others will be inspired to accomplish what he did. Hopefully, many others will have experiences like David's and that they, in turn, can increase other people's awareness regarding autism.
Levy,S.,Mandell,D.,&Schultz,R. (2009). Autism.The Lancet,374(9701),1627-38.Retrieved January 23, 2010, from ProQuest Medical Library. (Document ID:1898636031).