I love my autistic son – Gian Vincenzo

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

I’m so sorry to have been, literally, under the rock for the past few months – rarely had the chance to open my emails and lo and behold, when I did open them, the quantity of unread emails quite compared to the mudlides of Mayon…

This hermitage has a great thing to do with my concerns and activities for my second son, Gian Vincenzo who will turn 6 years old on January 10, 2007. He is diagnosed with autism.

Gian was born 6 summers ago, a robust, APGAR trouncing 7 pound baby. Up to his 18th month, he exhibited the progression of any normal kid – voracious appetite, geometric growth, rudimentary speech (dada, mama), facial recognition, in short, the works.

All of these went downhill and faded to oblivion when he went past 18 months. He withdrew, literally, from the world.

Words disappeared. He could not distinguish his parents from anybody else. He held his hands in his ears for the faintest of sounds, but totally ignored the Parokya ni Edgar ear-splitters blaring from his big brother’s mini-compo. Instead of the bright eyes that we have known before, now he stares with empty glances at nowhere – not focusing on anything yet focusing on everything all at once. He would cry at the slightest touch of cotton buds on his ears. He would cry when he wants ice cream and he cannot, for the world, say these 2 words. He would be sickly- a regular patron of pediatricians and hospitals suites semi-annually.

At first, there was denial and rationalization. People we know, even doctors, gave Gian the benefit of the doubt that,because of his gender, he might have a slight delay in speech, and gave him 6 months. Then another 6 months. Then another 6 months. This slight delay is not getting slight anymore.

At 3 years of age, we could not wait any longer for Gian to speak “Mommy” and “Daddy”. Off we went to a garden variety of specialists, you name them, Gian has gone through them. Pedia-neuros, Neuro developmentals, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Special Schools ( 3 of them), Occupational therapists, Speech therapists. Gian has gone through in 6 years what I haven’t gone through in my 39.

We then found “Intervention Partners”, a Pasig based center led by experienced Sped specialists, on July 2006. At this point, Gian has still to say a single word – at 5 1/2 years old, and we were in “desperate” mode. The center is a practitioner in Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), which was a recommendation of Dr. Tanchangco of Medical City. In her wisdom, Dr Tanchangco rules that, for Gian to absorb the SPED learnings, he must first learn how to sit, to listen, and to follow.

“Intervention Partners” was worth a try. In retrospect, “Behaviour Intervention” was God’s gift from heaven.

From July to December, in a short span of child-time, Gian went from zero vocabulary, to single words, to identifying words with pictures, to constructing simple subject-predicate sentences. He can now verbalize what he wants, what he feels. He can listen and follow simple directions. He can sing the whole “Lupang Hinirang” and “Ave Maria” in his American accented diction. He can discern Caltex from Shell, spell all the colors of the rainbow, count from 1 to 10,000 (in increments of 1,000) forward and backward. On his own, he is now learning a few Tagalog words.

Truly an accomplishment. At this point in time.

The road ahead is still paved with gravel, thorns and IEDs. Gian has a life ahead of him, and though we did not let the dice of Fate get a chance in his first 6 years, we still wonder if they will play their cards in his next 6 and beyond.

Gian will turn from childhood, to adolescent, to adulthood. At some point out there, we will be called to meet our Maker, and the mere thought of leaving him behind to the Fates, the Elements, and God forbid, The Philippine Goverment and the BIR, makes us shudder.

As a continuing legacy, I have inaugurated as simple website for Gian, www.myautisticson.com. Contained in it is Gian’s Weblog, which I would fill with his journals – from Gian’s perspective.

Also included is Gian’s Autism Forum, which I hope to be a source of online interaction for parents, teachers, practitioners, in their common quest to know and overcome this mystery called Autism.

Lastly, the site contains a web storefront where autism related book, movies, toys, food et al can be sold, and proceeds are dedicated to his therapies and education. The webstore contains unique designs (which I made myself) and relay the message of the autistic child to his parents – often not said through his lips, but through his eyes.

In closing, may I appeal to you to simply register and simply post any thoughts of yours in the forum, or comment/post in the blog, or forward and recomment the website www.myautisticson.com to the special someone you know who have an great interest in Autism.

Again, Merry Christmas and a blessed 2007!

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