#AutismAwareness: Our Journey
Last night, I saw a video clip of Hasna from Pinoy Big Brother wherein she mentioned her story as a mom of 2 kids with Autism. While watching it, tears kept falling on my cheeks. I remembered everything our family went through.
Ren was already 2.8 years old when we noticed that he is different from other kids in the neighborhood. He doesn’t call me mom, he can’t converse but can recite the alphabet, count and identify colors and shapes.
I felt that there’s something wrong but I thought that perhaps he just needs to be with other kids to develop his speech. I tried to enroll him to a daycare center, but the director told me to bring him to a Developmental Pediatrician because he shows some red flags upon her evaluation – no eye to eye contact, he lines up toys and does not answer instantly when called. The DevPed confirmed that he has “Autism Spectrum Disorder”. I have no idea what it is, until I did some research. The word “there’s no cure” shattered my dreams for him. I don’t know what to do, iyak lang ako ng iyak.
I agreed with Hasna when she said that this disability is expensive and it’s hard to understand and accept. I went through the denial stage that she also experienced.
But denying it won’t help, so we went to Occupational Therapist sessions twice a week. One hour cost around P500 at that time (it’s P700-P1000 now I think). I would just hear him crying the whole time. Minsan ang bigat sa pakiramdam na natapos nila ang oras na para bang walang nangyari? Mabigat na sa pakiramdam, mabigat din sa bulsa. I decided to leave my job as a supervisor and just focused on helping him. I joined seminars, some are free, meron din iba may bayad. Kahit malayo ang UP Diliman or Ateneo, pinupuntahan ko para lang makakuha ng tips, ideas from professionals on what to do.
After 3 months, he was advised to add speech therapy in his schedule. So from P1,000 per week sa OT, nadagdagan pa ng another P500 for Speech sessions. BTW, for developmental pediatrician consultation, it cost around P3,500 per visit ha.
I’m thankful for his therapists who empowered me. They taught me what they are doing at the center and asked me to do the same at the house. Kasi mas madaming oras sa bahay kesa sa therapy center.
I don’t know how we survived because my husband’s salary at that time was not that big. I just started blogging and local companies are not yet open to include bloggers for campaigns. I earned extra income by selling school supplies and we have a karaoke for rent but it’s not much and big. I’m thankful that my husband doubled his working hours to be able to provide for our needs. Plus my sister-in-law and her husband helped us by bringing cooked food for lunch and dinner because they have a carinderia near us.
The fear of having another child with special need is also one of the reasons why I avoided to get pregnant. Just like in case of Hasna, she has two child with the same condition. Though I know some families who have a first born with Autism and next kids are all neuro-typical. I just can’t risk to have another one because I don’t know if I can provide and take care of 2 kids with the same condition. The thought of it is already killing me.
Her story about bullying is one of the reasons why we decided to tell the world about my son’s condition. We kept it privately before.
Why? kasi daw “hindi halata”, “mukha naman syang okay”, “baka mali lang ang doktor”, “mukha syang normal”.
Napansin kasi namin na yung mga tao, pag visible ang disability like down syndrome, blind etc. mas inuunawa nila at iniintindi. Sa case ni Ren, iniisip nila na makulit lang, na hindi nadidisiplina ng magulang.
Autism, especially those who are verbal and can already manage themselves in public is considered one of the invisible disability. You’ll never know something is odd with them if you are not close to them.
My son can catch up with other kids his age, he is smart and can comprehend, but he struggles in socialization, in keeping friends and in decision making because he is a bit impulsive.
He is a sweet boy too, he loves us so much and he likes it when people praise and notices him through his own YouTube channel. He feels like a celebrity, he likes the attention hahaha
Bullying at school is one of the reasons why I chose to enter him in a small class sized school from Preschool to Grade3. I stayed everyday in that school (mula pasukan hanggang uwian) for 2 years straight para ma-monitor sya and his classmates (which I’m thankful that bullying between the kids never happened). If not only because of other reasons, Ren might still be there up to now.
When I transferred him to a bigger school in preparation for high-school, I chose one that has a SPED department because I thought kids in that school will be more understanding. Hasna is right, the tuition fee ranges from 80,000 – 200,000 or more. But we only stayed there for 1 year, because of some rules that we don’t agree and opposite to our goal for inclusion. That’s why we decided to homeschool him.
We started going to therapists when he was 2.9 years old and he’s 11 now. We’ve been through a lot, but I’m grateful that he’s doing fine now.
To all my co-special moms out there, be strong for your kids. My son teaches me a lot of things because of his condition and I’m very thankful I got to experience it. It may sound hypocrite, but I’m blessed to have someone like him in my life. Being sad and even mad at the world is normal, but you need to realize that you need to do something about it. Ask for help/advice and attend seminars if you can. Doing this will help you understand the situation more and will guide you to do what’s suppose to be done.
To the parents who have neuro-typical kids, I humbly ask for your help to teach your kids to be more considerate, more patients, more understanding to their peers especially those they find odd or different.
We are helping our special kids to adjust in the society’s rules and I hope your neuro-typical kids could meet them half way by also adjusting to their world too.
As responsible parents, let’s make our kid’s “future world” wonderful by co-existing with each other.