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January 2011



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First Published Monday, 9 February 2009

The Philippines - On Bridging the Gap

Mistaken ideas deter progress on autism

By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Society’s, and sometimes their own family’s, averse attitude toward autism remains the “greatest obstacle” to bringing to the fore the rights and needs of a person with the disorder, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Leila de Lima said Sunday.

“I refer to most families’ penchant for secrecy and their persistent yearning for the appearance of normalcy that at times even border on self-denial… they fear that by exposing their loved ones to society it would make them vulnerable to ridicule and ill-treatment,” De Lima said in a speech following the Angels Walk for Autism at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

The annual walk is part of the observance of Autism Consciousness Week which is spearheaded by the Autism Society Philippines.

De Lima, whose 26-year-old son Israel was born with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), opened the CHR last year to persons with disabilities, saying the commission would address their complaints along with the other issues it investigates such as extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

“The CHR shall endeavor to meet the diverse needs of people with autism and their families,” De Lima vowed Sunday.

She noted that four core values of human rights laws “are of particular importance in the context of autism”—the dignity of each individual whose value is based on his or her inherent self-worth; the concept of autonomy or self-determination; equality of all; and the ethic solidarity “which requires society to sustain the freedom of the person with appropriate social supports.”

She said that, as a mother, focusing on “what people with autism are and what they can do” helped her in raising her son.

“I have seen him grow up and become the person he is today, and it gives me unending joy and a sense of fulfillment to know that this artistic, talented and sensitive young man is my own son.

“I, therefore, defy anyone to refer to my son, or to anyone with ASD for that matter, as being less than normal or as autistic or as disabled, or as being afflicted with a disease,” she said.

De Lima said that while families’ fears that their loved one with autism would be ostracized by society “are not unfounded,” secrecy or self-denial “perpetuates the problem, and hinders the progress toward understanding and acceptance.”

“By being obsessed with trying to blend in with the socially typical, the real needs of the most important person in the equation tend to be neglected. The simple truth is that the last thing a child or person with ASD needs is to be treated like any other person. The reality is they have special needs, and to ignore this is to do them a disservice,” De Lima said.

Source:   http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/lifestyle/lifestyle/view/20090119-184192/Mistaken-ideas-deter-progress-on-autism

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