“The celebration of World Autism Awareness Day is our yearly reminder that autism is real and in our midst. We simply cannot close our eyes to the fact that everyone has to act and do something for the welfare of persons with autism, whether you are a parent, a relative, a teacher, a community worker, a doctor, a therapist, a government leader, a legislator or simply as a human being that cares for persons with ASD.”
Advocate/Core Member of the Autism Society Philippines &
Directress of Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) Davao
By Ernesto C. Perez II
Every year on April 2, we celebrate World Autism Awareness Day. This day was declared as such by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 in order “to highlight the need to improve the quality of life of children and adults, who are affected by autism, so they can lead full and meaningful lives.”
Autism is short for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is a poor taste of words when you call adults or children diagnosed with ASD as “autistics”. The politically correct terminology is “persons with autism.”
There is a growing number of families in the Philippines who have children diagnosed with ASD. Today is the most appropriate time to tell this nation what ASD or autism is all about. The following paragraphs are based on the book authored by Stephen B. Edelson, M.D., entitled “Conquering Autism: Reclaiming Your Child Through Natural Therapies.”
Autism is still recognized and diagnosed almost exclusively through its behavioral symptoms. In young children the signs of the disorder are puzzling but distinctly recognizable – behaviour such as rocking, recoiling from being touched or held, becoming fixated on a particular object, toe walking, hand flapping, tantrums, an obsessive desire for sameness, and a fear of even the smallest change in the environment.
For a person with ASD, social interactions are never easy, and may require mastering a set of skills that don’t come naturally. Therefore, the next time you are seated beside a family with a child who exhibits the recognizable signs listed above, in a restaurant or other public places, please don’t judge that the parents cannot discipline their child properly. What the family needs is understanding and support – not rude stares or uninformed suppositions.
However, it is interesting that in the United States, about 1 in 10 people with ASD displays exceptional abilities in skills such as art or memorization of numbers or names. Perhaps 1 in 100 are identified as savants because of their remarkable abilities.
Intriguingly, if a child begins to recover from the debilitating symptoms of autism through treatment, these exceptional abilities seem to disappear along with the illness, according to Dr. Edelson.
But most importantly, a diagnosis of ASD can be the beginning of a long struggle and challenge for a child’s parents, who must watch their son or daughter retreat into a mysterious and lonely world they cannot enter.
Parents must endure daily tantrums, obsessive behaviours, special education programs, endless trips to developmental pediatricians as well as speech and behavioral therapists. The outcome of these therapeutic efforts is never guaranteed. In severe cases, children with ASD may never be able to function on their own, while those with milder cases of ASD may go on to have independent and productive lives as adults.
Dr. Edelson said that autism is a neurobiological disorder, an illness that involves multiple organ systems. According to him, this disorder is triggered by toxic injury during a crucial window of neurological development.
And, as scientific research advances there may be a cure in the near future for ASD. This cure is the light at the end of the tunnel for children and adults diagnosed with ASD, including the parents and primary caregivers.
Meanwhile, living with a child diagnosed with ASD is a constant challenge. Yet, it reminds us of God’s infinite love for everyone of his creation. That despite such struggles, God is always there providing constant blessings to both children and parents.
Children diagnosed with ASD are angels living in our midst, granted they may need more attention, love and understanding. But, we should likewise extend that love and understanding to the parents and caregivers who live and care for these angels.
Happy World Autism Awareness Day!!
Atty. Ernesto C. Perez II is Managing Partner in PEREZ VALENCIA & PEREZ Law Firm in Madrigal Business Park, Muntinlupa City which was established in October 2001. His main areas of practice cover the laws on succession, property, real estate, community associations, private corporations and renewable energy.
He is the Chief Entrepreneurial Officer of REALTTORNEY PROFESSIONAL REALTY SERVICES, a real estate firm based in Cavite. His website www.realttorney.com provides insights and useful information to real estate service practitioners, as well as current and future homeowners about the real estate industry in the Philippines.
He is also Atty. K’s better half and partner in raising 2 (soon to be 3) wonderful kids, one of whom was recently diagnosed with ASD.