Sunday, September 2, 2012

On Autism, Positive Thinking and True Love

I don't know that much about Autism. I didn't have any firsthand experience with the disorder and never did I think that anybody close to me will be diagnosed with it - until now.

Mhy and I have been best of friends since college. We were inseparable, so to speak and we almost, always do everything together. We are both the eldest in our families, we both had boyfriends in college almost at the same time, we had our first drinking lesson at the same time (and yes, we both got pretty drunk), our birthdays both fall on the month of January and we both gave birth to boys in October 2010! In tagalog we are magkasanggang-dikit and magkadikit ang bituka.

Just recently, during their visit to a developmental pedia, our suspicions regarding Ethan, Mhy's son, were confirmed. He was diagnosed with Autism. We noticed the signs early on - Ethan not making any eye contact, him not reacting whenever we call his name, Ethan not interacting with anybody besides himself and his toys, making grunting noises instead of talking, and Ethan banging his head on the wall or on floor whenever he gets frustrated. It is heartbreaking but definitely not hopeless.

Mhy and her husband, Bong, are maintaining a positive attitude. Ethan is still Ethan, though a little delayed in development, his mental age is assessed to be that of a 9 month old instead of at his actual age of 22 months. According to his pedia, it is good that he was diagnosed sooner than later. Early interventions were already planned out - regular occupational and speech therapy - until his 2nd assessment on March of next year. Necessary adjustments were made by Mhy and Bong, even if that meant leaving her husband and son here in the Philippines so Ethan can undergo therapy and Mhy going back to Singapore by herself to work.

I was saddened and was a bit ashamed when we went to their house yesterday to see Mhy off as she heads back to Singapore. Ashamed, yes, because when our two boys were together, one can see the difference in both kids' behavior. Johan was actively dancing and laughing while watching TV compared to Ethan who was quietly sitting down turning a toy car in his hands, unmindful of the chaos that my son was making. For the first time in my life, I was not proud of how many building blocks my son can put up or how many words he can already say - because Ethan, though they're of the same age, can say nothing yet.

Regardless of the diagnosis, Ethan is still the boy that my best friend gave birth to, whom they love with all their hearts. Who am I to think that he is anything less? I am pretty sure everything will be okay. With the love and support of his parents, his grandparents, his aunts and uncles and everybody else around him, including me and my family, Ethan will be okay. Autism will never be a hindrance to him, we will make sure it will not be and instead, it will open doors to big possibilities for him. Besides, as Mhy put it, "Ethan is still Ethan", and we love him.

We all do.

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