Colors of a spectrum-A A +A
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
BEING a parent of a child with autism has brought me many unique and unforgettable experiences I have never imagined I would be in. One of these experiences happened in October 2008 when I organized the first provincial photo workshop and exhibit of the Autism Society Philippines.
The project was called Colors of “A” Spectrum, a unique photo workshop/exhibit for children and teenagers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that originated in ASP Manila, through the concept of one of the staunch advocates for persons with disabilities, Mr. John Chua. It all started with a kind act of sharing a passion for photography.
Mr. Chua, a much sought-after advertising photographer and owner of Ad Photo, discovered that his friend’s 20-year old son with autism had this talent in taking photographs. Mr. Chua continued to mentor and coached Ian Po who later on developed an interest and skill in photography and this brought a new direction and meaning in life for Ian and his family.
One photo taken by Ian was even featured in a national newspaper. This success story led to the birth of an advocacy project of the ASP which launched a photo workshop and exhibit of the beautiful photos of Ian and other children with autism in Manila.
As they say, a picture could launch a thousand ships. The ASP and Mr. John Chua wanted the photo workshop to touch more lives outside of Manila. They dreamt of spreading the hope that children with autism can also express their talents and feelings through photography.
I am proud to say that the first provincial Colors of a Spectrum workshop/exhibit took place in Davao City with the participation of the Fanatic Photographers Society of Davao (FPSOD). This group of professional photographers and hobbyists were also interested in learning what autism is all about and they wanted to help in creating public awareness and acceptance of individuals with autism. I met talented photographers of Davao City, such as Rhonson Ng, Jojie Alcantara, Wacky Masbad, Jon Dexter Tan, Ana Caguiat, Debbie Occena-Sablada, Katherine Lara, Dennis Tan, Joyce Mariscal, Kat Mercado, Morris Uy, Bambam Garcia, Joe Benavides, Alisa Bernan, Mike Li and Tolits Ayala, among others. I would say that it was through God’s providence that the ASP and FPSODC came up with a successful workshop and photo exhibit participated in by around 300 people composed of individuals with autism and their families, the volunteer photographers and the sponsors of the project such as SM, Canon, SM, Eden Nature Park, Bachelor Express, Centrix, and Shakeys. Now you can picture how awesome the workshop and exhibit successfully turned out.
The most touching part of the experience was in knowing that the project left a lasting imprint on the parents who found sources of strength and support from newfound friends among the participating families.
Likewise, during the post workshop meeting, the volunteer photographers also moved us to tears with their touching testimonials on how they felt while mentoring the child with autism that was assigned to them.
The photo exhibit was also a huge success. It featured a collection of photos of the children with autism that sent a special message to the public that there is hope beyond their deficits. We were all proud of the children whose work impressed the viewers and the media.
At the end of the day, many lessons were learned out of the photo 3workshop. Self-realizations of parents and volunteer photographers were heartwarming enough to steer us all to move forward and love all the more our children with autism. As for my eldest son, he developed self-esteem and confidence in himself that he can also do something new and worthwhile. In fact, we had to buy him his own camera in order to support his newfound hobby. Indeed, our lives have become colorful in the world of autism
Jane Ann S. Gonzales is a mother of a youth with autism. She is an advocate/core member of the Autism Society Philippines and Directress of the Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) Davao, a centre for teenagers and adults with special needs. For comments or questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org).
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on October 23, 2013.