Most Filipinos have an averse attitude towards the subject of Autism. Pinoy culture is very Asian in its core; there is so much protocol and social norm surrounding our interactions that more often than not, we hardly mean what we say. When offered food by an acquaintance in a formal setting, we are expected to politely decline the first time because it is considered rude to accept after just one offer, but then again, the offer was ritualistic and was not really meant to be accepted. Social interaction among us Pinoys is never about what we say, it is more about the things we don’t say that gets noticed.
For children and adults who have been diagnosed with ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder, the first thing their parents seek protection is from discrimination. Truth be told, Filipino culture is very critical and discriminating against those with ASD. Sufferers are regarded as violent, even criminal, and is often marginalized and isolated from the rest of what is considered to be “normal” society. Our ignorance about autism as a medical condition is too rudimentary. Most of what the masses know about ASD is usually speculative, based on misinformation and a lack of basic understanding beyond the tag of “diprensya sa pag-iisip”.
To help our readers, here are some of the most common myths about children with autism, which, we in PWDPhil, are hoping that the reader can take time to think about.
Myth 1: Children with autism are harmful and violent to other kids.
This is farthest from the truth. In fact, the inverse is more likely to be true: children with autism tend be bullied and attacked by the “normal” kids for a variety of reasons, such as the fact that no one believes children with autism and that causing harm to them would prevent them from attacking other kids. If at all any of them might react violently to some stimulus, that would more likely to be rooted in a memory of being previously attacked.
Myth 2: Children with autism will never “get better” or finish college and become gainfully employed.
Depending on the openness of the parents, there have been many children with autism that have managed finished an associate or bachelor’s degree and have later found employment. Even truer is the fact that there are many adults with autism that have held on their jobs, received awards and have been given more important responsibilities. It is also untrue that children with autism cannot focus on anything. Nothing is farther from the truth. In fact, children with autism have laser-like focus on very specialized tasks. They also do not mind repetitive tasks as they are comfortable with it. Many manufacturing companies have hired adults with autism precisely because of their ability to focus and work repetitively on complex jobs.
Myth 3: Children will outgrow autism.
Not true! Autism is a development disorder that affects both mind and body as the sufferer grows older. Early sufferers will not outgrow this as autism needs to be continuously monitored and, as in any chronic condition, may also have maintenance medicines. They will not outgrow autism, but with family understanding and support, maybe therapy and some with pills, children with autism grow to become highly productive and socially functional, others even with their own families.
Myth 4: Autism is caused by bad parenting.
Parents need not blame themselves if one of their children turns out to become a child with autism. No amount of discipline or spanking can change them.
Friends, autism spectrum disorder is not a barrier to children’s, hopes and dreams of becoming successful. With the right awareness, we can help our brothers and sisters with autism become highly functioning, and productive citizens. We need to spread awareness so our friends with autism can realize their potential and not become burdens of the family as well as the government’s.