AUTIMISM: THE SUNNY SIDE OF AUTISM
By: Ynna Esguerra
When a person hears the word “autism”, it is often associated with the statement “something is wrong with that person” or worse, “demons”, according to Rosie King—the autistic speaker of a TED talk entitled “How autism freed me to be myself”. While people, especially those who have direct experience, are aware of the upsides more than downsides, it’s hard to reprogram a society that has been tied to traditional beliefs. One of the commonly known beliefs about autistic people is that they are “into math and science and nothing else”. And just because most of them do not share the same coping mechanisms as normal people do, they are automatically tagged as different. The sad part about this is that instead of breaking this misconception, the autistics are tucked inside labelled boxes leading to their isolation. Hence, society remained unaware of the exceptional potential a person with autism possesses.
But there is a revolution going on. The term “autism” has rebelliously released itself from its belittling reputation as it is being continuously redefined by itsadvocates—parents, teachers, psychologists, and theautistic people themselves. Their combined voices making its way to be heard by the society’s ears. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the revolution is real. With the help of technology, people are beginning to open their minds and deviate from their traditional beliefs about the condition. The social media has been a great platform for presenting “autism” in a sunny viewpoint. Shared videos and articles celebrating the talents and skills of person with autism continue to appear in our Facebook feeds. People are now becoming informed about the condition and are becoming less indifferent.
Parents are also now proudly telling the world how their autistic child has positively changed their perspectives in life. Some said that they have become more appreciative of little things. For others, being “open to different expectations” do not seem hard anymore. They are also more mindful of the present than the future—making them more loving than anxious. Obtaining the said traits are what they believed have shaped them to be better, sensitive, and compassionate human beings.
Those in the education field, on the other hand, have been very supportive in unleashing the potential of the autistic children. What makes teachers specializing in special needs different is that they put extra effort in knowing the child’s strengths and exploring novel ways to develop them. This maximizes not only the teacher’s creativity but also the child’s.
“Recent data—and personal experience--suggest that autism can be an advantage in some spheres, including science,” states Dr. Laurent Mottron in Nature, an international science weekly journal. Working with eight autistic people--one of who has become his close collaborator--has altered his entire perception towards the condition. While it’s a stereotype that having autism makes day-to-day activities a struggle, Dr. Mottron explains that this is a result of “living in a world that has not been constructed around their priorities and interests.”
He added that having autistic people in the world of scientific research made him a witness of how they can make breakthroughs. He believes that an autistic person, when placed in the right environment, can truly shine, even outperform their non-autistic colleagues. Their exceptional intelligence and pure concentration in one specific area at a time can make them goodcontributors in a certain field. He also opined that their potentials remain unrealized when employers overlook their capabilities and place them under routine, sedentary jobs.
Autistic people themselves are now more more out-in-the-open with their amazing capabilities. In fact, when they are asked about the upside of being in the spectrum, the various responses only boil down to one thing: PERCEPTION. Seeing the world through a different lens, living in two worlds at once, disinterest in the grandiose, unmindful of feeling discriminated--these are only a few of the many traits they are proud to have. If these people already feel confidently good about themselves, why won’t we feel the same way about them?
Indeed, we can say that the perceptual prowess of autism is not only exclusive to those under the spectrum. In truth, they made some recognize that it’s the “normal” people who live inside the closed box andnot them. Today, as their sunlight continues to peerthrough the world, it is a good sight that more people are now slowly discovering and celebrating the fact that they are blessed with autistic people’s kind warmth, not crippling heat.
Yes love, I don't want you to be in this room forever
But this is the exact room where I saw you for the first time, the
exact room where I saw your lovely smile
The exact room where I see you growing,
yes you cried at times but eventually it fades with your sweet laughs
And.. I believe that you can flow with the bigger world now, because
together we faced the old one
Before I saw your thorn, but now, I see how you beautifully grow
I am in great gladness, because I know you can live real universe now
I love you little kid, you made me realized what true love means
Yes, the loneliness is in Teacher's heart, but I would keep this pain
rather than seeing you in this room again
With SMLC Behavioral Therapy, Inc, a new year is not just a radiant and humble beginning. It is also an opportunity to step up the ladder; to look back and see how much you’ve grown; and to keep being grateful.
This year’s general assembly, with the theme “Silver Lining: Opportunity In Adversity”, is definitely an event to remember. It has stirred everyone’s mind, heart and soul. Not only fun and games were prepared for everyone, but also inspiring remarks from our CEO Mr. Cheynard Bondoc. Chosen Servant Leaders also took the floor highlighting wonderful topics such as gratitude and goal setting. The SMLC core values, career path and policies were reviewed as well. To spice up the event, the winner of last Christmas Party’s dance competition, Team Puso, wowed everyone once again with their awesome dance moves.
Of course, the main event was the talk led by the amazing Carelle Mangaliag-Herrera, Trainstation’s CEO. Everyone was in awe as she energetically delivered the most encouraging words. One of the ultimate takeaways of her speech is that it’s our decision to see these silver linings. After the talk, it’s not surprising to realize that we are already sharing the vision about the kids we serve—that they are truly the world’s silver linings.
Since 1930, Disney movies have been known for encouraging imagination and instilling good values to children and children at heart. But to autistic Owen Suskind, a Disney film is more than just a creativity booster or valuable entertainment. It’s actually his cinematic manual to decipher the world; his cinematic compass to navigate life.
It’s not every day that people get to see a documentary that attempts to document the extraordinary. Joining several other titles nominated for Best Documentary (Feature), Life, Animated aspired to touch a theme that is not commonly discussed out loud: Autism.
The documentary follows the journey of Owen Suskind—an autistic millennial who strived creatively to understand life. As the director smoothly weaved Owen’s milestones—from his childhood struggles to his new challenges as a young adult, a seamless, better-than-Disney film emerges from the screen.
Unable to speak as a child, the world of Owen's family fell apart. Their frustration deepened when Owen was diagnosed with autism. At first, it was a great struggle for all of them to connection with each other. But eventually, by their efforts, Owen and his family found a way to bridge their gap. Not giving up on each other paid off.
Owen’s obsession with Disney films has been a great starting point for his parents to understand him. While the doctor interpreted Owen’s way of saying a script from The Little Mermaid as echolalia, his parents have seen this as his attempt to communicate and express. For the first time, Owen was able to look directly at his parents’ eyes when they said the phrase from the movie.
For the first time, they understood each other. Who could have imagined that a single line from a Disney film could connect people from opposite worlds?
Experts say that autistic people have at least one affinity. This certain affinity, viewed as “non-productive obsession” by many, can actually help an autistic individual grow both personally and socially. In Owen’s case, his strong liking to Disney films helped him understand the world. It also inspired him to start his own Disney club, where he met his girlfriend. The club was also able to help other individuals with special needs who share the interest.
Life, Animated is a heartfelt experience as spectators feel what it’s like to see through the eyes of Owen Suskind. His journey is an inspirational proof of perseverance, acceptance, understanding, and being proud of one’s uniqueness.
How to build happy and healthy relationship between you and your kid with special needs By: Elaine Iwa
Have you ever felt unappreciated when you called your child but he/she didn’t look at you? As much as you want to make your little angel feel loved, the response you get from him/her makes you feel that there is a disconnection between the both of you.
As a parent, it may seem frustrating to see your child like this. You may also feel as if you cannot do something to make him understand what is happening around him. But believe me when I say that you can! There is a way! In fact, a lot of ways!
It’s never too late for parents to build happy and healthy relationships with their children with special needs. Don’t know where to start? Here are some things you can consider in establishing a connection with your child:
1. Make time – Time is an important element in a man’s life. We can never reverse the clock and bring back what has gone. This is why parents should spend time with their children while they are still young. Spend at least 3-4 hours per day to bond with your child. Build a connection by playing with your kid. Join him/her in things he/she loves doing. Frequently call your child by his/her name. Always remember to make your child feel important.
2.Observe your child - Discover what makes your child happy and what makes him do unnecessary behaviors. List every possible thing that catches his/her attention, even those that frustrates him/her. Take note of your child’s reaction on different situations. With this, you will understand your child better. Look for possible ways on how you can make your presence be felt. For instance, instead of letting your child watch nursery videos, you can try being animated by imitating his/her favorite characters. You can also sing his/her favorite nursery songs.
3. Ask for support – Do a research. Watch videos. Read books, articles and documents about children with special needs. Seek support. There are different organizations and professionals who can enlighten and help you cope with your situation. Also, look for a support group. Always remember that you are not alone. There are parents like you who are doing everything for their child. With their experience and insights, they can help you understand and strengthen your relationship with your child, as well as share with you tips on how to manage your child when he/she is exhibiting disruptive behaviors. But the best way to handle your child is to just allow your love to calm the storm. Let your love transcend in your child. Nothing beats love.
4. Appreciate the small victories - Sometimes, when you get blinded by the negative things that your child is doing, you feel hopeless and frustrated. But don’t forget to focus on the good things. Appreciate even the smallest achievements of your child. When he smiles at you or hug you spontaneously, when he look into your eyes even just for a second or when he sits down properly – these are some of the things you should be thankful for. Have a positive attitude and you will live a happy life with your child.
5. Celebrate your child’s uniqueness – Do not compare your child to others. There is something in your child that makes him/her uniquely wonderful and amazing. Acceptance is what he/she needs. Your child is awesome and capable of doing great things – celebrate life together!
God cannot be physically with us, so He gave us mothers. Every month of May, we celebrate Mother's day. It is part of our tradition to give our mothers the appreciation they deserve. Not all superheroes wear capes, some wear apron and dress. Mothers are all around superheroes - from making sure they would get up on time to catch our school classes in the morning down to reading us bed time stories, they are always there. But did you know that some mothers were given a special mission? And that is to provide love and care in a most special way to a child with special needs.
We have asked a mother of a child with special needs about what is the best part about being a mother of a child with special needs. Get ready to be touched and be blessed by her story.
"The best part of being the mom of my 8 year old child with special needs named Stan is when I gradually became sort of of a special mom, too, becoming more than the average. When he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2013, believe it or not, my husband and I took it calmly because way before then I was already sensing he was different. I was fascinated that he played his toys in a whole new way by lining them up. He was our firstborn so there was no way of comparing him with other kids then until we visited my brother's family and I observed them.
After diagnosis that's when the challenges rose. Potty training was tedious done the usual ways of using a toilet seat and timing him. So I didn't realize before that I did a special thing to get him to the toilet: reading his body language on when he was about to pee or poo. He would squat to the ground and that was the cue for me to pick him up (while he's still squatting!) And carry him to the toilet seat! It was never easy because at 4 years old he used to dump on the floor and I would clean up after him. But having observed his habits helped me slowly change his routine in the other things that he used to do. At 6 years old, he could eat his meals independently, and now he can get his own food, eat by himself, and put his dishes in the sink.
In short, I became sort of special with heightened sensitivity and observation, and this helped me help other autism families when they're facing similar challenges and more. I am a moderator in a Facebook group called Super ASD Parents PH and I share my experiences and some advice based on those experiences.
SMLC has become part Stan's life since June 2016, and this made our journey extra special and extraordinary. Stan's therapist and branch owner in Habay are very helpful and insightful as to how I can do more for him at home. ABA has truly helped us because there is a systematic way of doing his therapy. From the assessment to the tasks and tabulated feedback I get a clear picture of Stan's progress so far, and now that I am battling Stage IV Hodgkin's Lymphoma SMLC has become more involved in his journey while I am having my own. And having a partner in SMLC is another best part of my being a mom of a special-needs child."
Truly, a mother can conquer all for her child. The story of Mommy Lyn Lozada and Stan of SMLC Habay Branch is a clear picture of 'Nothing beats a mother's love'. Happy Mother's Day!
Founded in 2013, Puzzle Café is a dream turned into reality for José Canoy and his family. Like other families, the Canoy family was also anxious about José's future. They worried about how the society would treat him and how he would cope with life's challenges because of his special needs.
Ms. Ysabella Canoy, the general manager and sister of José, always had the passion for serving children with special needs. She encouraged the whole family to work together towards the security of José's future hence Puzzle Café was built.
The Unboxed Team was blessed to have the opportunity to meet Ms. Ysabella and experience the "heaven-on-earth" ambience of the café. The place gives people feelings of happiness, security, fulfillment and most of all: HOPE -- just how exactly the Canoy family envisioned it to be.
How did you come up with the idea of building this café?
Y: This café was initially for José. It was our dream for him. We hired an interior designer to help us put our concepts into reality. We also used various social media accounts to help it get known.
Why was it named Puzzle Café?
Y: José named it! José loves puzzles!
What were the struggles that you encountered when the Puzzle was newly built?
Y: Every member of the family must really contribute. Close relationship is very important: parents and siblings involvement. Amidst the struggles and misunderstandings, José brought us together. We see him as a blessing.
How did you begin outsourcing employees particularly those with special needs?
Y: We opened the café not only to children with autism but also to others with special needs. We didn't want to turn anyone away. But more than the age, it's the readiness that we should consider.
What are the requirements to be accepted as a trainee?
Y: They have to be in school (with program). There will also be assessment of skills, follow-up with parents, and partnership with schools (for simulation). If they will be regularized, their salary will be PHP 50/hour.
What is the cafe's mission?
Y: The mission changes constantly: "Do not be driven by money or popularity."
How to do you overcome challenges?
Y: Remember that they are relying on you not to give up on them, they need people to believe in them.
What is your plan in the next 5 years for the cafe? Are you planning to open it for franchising?
Y: I don't like to make it profit-driven. I don't like to open it for franchise/branch because Jose is no longer there-- my passion is not there. Also, our plan is to help the future generations of children with special needs.
What is your message for Jose?
Y: I will always respect your likes and dislikes. I'm extremely proud of you and I believe in you.
What is your advice for people in line with our profession and others who help special children?
Y: At the end of the day...
Always do all things with love.
Very few movies portray autism in such realism and humane approach as in Rain Man, Mary and Max, and Adam. Most carry the stories dealing with high-functioning autism called Asperger’s Syndrome. In an attempt to introduce her audience to another side of the autism spectrum, Janet Grillo, a mother of an autistic child herself, came up with a poignant and beautiful piece called Jack of the Red Hearts. The movie was able to draw attention to the usually overlooked subject and break the notion that all autistic children are idiot savants.
Jack of the Red Hearts looks into the life of a giddy, street smart teenager named Jack, as her life reels around the lives of family slowly being broken by a sweet child with special needs. In her desperation to raise money and gain custody of her younger sister, Jack assumed a different identity and took the caregiving job for a severely autistic child named Glory. Donna, the caregiver, is a blessing to the family who because of the burden of raising a special child is almost in the brink of breaking up. Jack (aka Donna) finds herself in the midst of chaos in dealing and caring for Glory.
What makes the film different and commendable is the honesty of its depiction. First, it allows the audience to visualize the sensorial experience of someone who has autism--the rainbow seen through the crystal globe with the intensity of thought perceived through high places. Secondly, it shows us the challenges of non-verbal communication. Glory oftentimes expressed her anger through aggressive behaviors and often messy. Lastly, to stretch its narrative, several storylines intertwine lives of major characters that are affected either positively or negatively by Glory.
The film’s strength is the encapsulation of the real struggles and fulfillment of raising someone who has autism. It caresses the sanity of living with and the beauty of coping with autism by the child herself and people around her.
Jack of the Red Hearts is an empathetic, authentic, heartwarming, and feel-good family movie that holds the audience’s hand as they view the beauty of autism. The movie is a gentle reminder that in a world of autistic people, patience, understanding, and faith always pays off.