Effective autism care in Cagayan de Oro

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By Susan Palmes-Dennis

Straight from Carolinas

Friday, February 14, 2014


THE Intervention Center for Autism and Related Exceptionalities (iCare) was recently launched in Cagayan de Oro City.

A press release that recently detailed its launching was given to me by Atty. Isa Echem Tangonan. She happens to be part owner of iCare and even if I'm here at North Carolina, I am interested to write about it.

Atty. Tangonan happens to be the daughter of Zoraida Echem, a townmate in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental. Zoraida Echem's maternal grandmother is Eulogia P. Martinez whom I fondly called Tiay.

iCare is owned and operated by Atty. Isa Echem-Tangonan and her husband as their contribution to their community. “We do this not primarily for profit, but to offer quality service of early intervention,” Atty. Tangonan said.

Autism and related exceptionalities in a child is something hard to discuss. It struck a chord in me. It's not easy to hear news that your child has autism and you would realize that your life would be utterly different than what is expected.

Years ago, I would always see to it that I would invite teachers, parents and the special students of City Central School to my radio and TV public affairs program.

They would discuss different Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Pervasive Developmental Orders (PDO), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD), Down syndrome, Learning Disabilities and other related conditions.

That was 16 years ago when many are unfamiliar with the disorders I've mentioned. It became a nightmare to some families when their children are autistic and they would deal with it like it was something from outer space.

Resources, facilities and expertise weren't as adequate as they are now. In Cagayan de Oro, there are private institutions like iCare that offers therapy to autistic and special children.

But it is iCare that's the first therapy center for special children in Cagayan de Oro that uses scientific procedures based on the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) method as the foundation of intervention.

The ABA method of therapy uses operant and classical conditioning that modifies human behaviors, especially as part of a learning or treatment process. Today, the ABA is widely recognized as a safe and effective treatment for autism.

It has been endorsed by a number of developmental pediatricians and childcare practitioners in the US, Europe, Middle East and Asia. In the Philippines, it has been practiced in a number of therapy centers in Manila, Cebu, and Davao.

“Early detection with the right intervention is the key to children with special needs in achieving their full potentials,” Atty. Isa's husband and iCare program director Renato Tangonan said.

Tangonan, an ABA specialist for over a decade now and trained in ABA at the Florida Institute of Technology, saw the need for ABA to be introduced in Cagayan de Oro City.

“We envision introducing ABA not only here in the city but also in Northern Mindanao,” he added.

iCare is composed of a team of highly qualified teachers and staff working together and committed to ensure the optimal social, emotional and educational well being of each child with a 1:1 child-therapist ratio.

They also offer group therapy, home therapy, shadow teaching and parents support services. “Our therapy is not expensive. Our rate is relatively lower than the existing rates for therapy in the city,” Renato Tangonon added. iCare is presently located at Block 4, Lot 5, Xavier Heights Subdivision, Cagayan de Oro City. However, it will transfer soon at 11th-30th streets in Barangay Nazareth, Cagayan de Oro City for easy access to clients.

I have so many insights and things to write about autism and other life changing disorders soon. What I can only tell for now is that there is hope for everyone because there is iCare.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 15, 2014.

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