An enabling environment

 How immediate intervention can help children with autism

IN A house-like intervention center within a subdivision in the southern part of the city, hope springs like flowers that blossom from a tiny clay pot.

It promotes wholeness, making people with autism feel that they are appreciated and where they are spared from the indifference or ridicule of others had they been placed in an ordinary school. It is where they are trained on self-help and learn things from ABCs, 1-2-3 to vocational activities.

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THE STAFF of Davao Autism Intervention Center Inc.

 Rudisel S. Alberina, program director of Davao Autism Intervention Center Inc. (DAICFI), shared that they help enrich the people with autism so they could soon be in regular schools. To date, he said they have 27 students for this school year.

 “It is best that the parents have to detect if their children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as early as two years of age so they would be given immediate intervention in the center,” Alberina said.

 The center, which was set up by the parents of children with ASD in 1997, is located at JR Cañedo Building in Arayat St., Central Park Subdivision, Phase I, Bangkal. It is licensed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development XI to operate as an intervention center.

 Once there is early detection on ASD and the child is provided with necessary intervention they observed that the improvement is fast. Some of their students are now either in private or public schools.

 One of their success stories, is a student who was able to graduate in college with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Information Technology.

 His name is Omar Atienza, who graduated in Brokenshire College in 2014. His father Arsenio also entered college, took the same course and graduated at the same year to guide his son while overcoming the challenges in the tertiary level.

 At present, the Autism Society of the Philippines-Davao Chapter recorded 21,500 people with ASD. Throughout the country, the Autism Speaks Foundation (ASF) registered about 1 million people with ASF as of 2014.

 The worldwide trend, is one in 68 children across the world has autism spectrum disorder, ASF said.

 In a briefer of DAICFI: “ASD is a neurological disorder that severely impairs development of a person’s ability to communicate, interact with other people, and the presence of stereotyped behaviors, interests and activities.”

 This can be detected if a child does not babble or coo by 12 months of age; does not gesture by 12 months of age; does not say a single word by 16 months of age; does not say two-word phrases on his own by 24 months of age and does not have social skills at any age.

 “They have this ‘I want’ behavior that is why we have to correct them,” Alberina said.

 The center is using applied behavioral analysis, the application of techniques like having positive reinforcement to bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior. The approach is also widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment for ASD.

 The center’s programs and services include early intervention program for two to seven years old, children’s program for eight to 12 years old and transition program for 13 years old and above.

 Transition program, for instance, include self-care and household activities; integration to a regular school for social skills activities; pre-vocational and vocational activities such as arts and crafts, packaging and office works; leisure skills; functional academics and sensory integration program.

 To give more children the necessary intervention, Alberina said they hoped to source funds from the government and other groups. They are also looking to have an adopt-a-child program.

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A SAMPLE of the teaching materials at the center.

 The adopt-a-child program is envisioned to have a 50-50 scheme wherein 50% of the intervention fee of P4,500 in the center has to be covered by the government while the rest has to be paid by those who want to finance a child with ASD.

 “We want to help more especially those in the far-flung areas,” Alberina said.

 Febe Lybai A. Matthews, council member of National Anti-Poverty Commission-children with disability sector and president of Parents Mobilization Action Group, said they also hoped that there would be heightened awareness on ASD.

 Matthews said it is also important for the Department of Health to provide free assessment, medication and medicines to those children with autism. The Department of Education, she said, has to provide good access in giving education for children with ASD.

 All teacherd have to be trained on handling the children with ASD.

 “Teaching the children with ASD, indeed, is a challenging work yet rewarding. This is kind of apostolate work but you can truly be happy while seeing their genuine smile. And as the people with autism want to be loved, we are here to comfort and fill them with love,” Alberina said.

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