GRIEF, denial, coping and acceptance — these are the emotional stages that parents of children with special needs go through, and she went through this painful process herself.

Anne Ramos-Rafanan gave birth to Josh, a perfectly healthy baby boy who met all the developmental milestones — until he was two years old. So when Josh was diagnosed with autism after suffering from seizures, and changed behaviors, Anne was devastated.

She went through the whole painful process together with her husband. It was unbearable but they decided to be proactive about it and do everything they can for Josh.

It was from this pain that her passion for helping other children with special needs was born.

Jumpstart Intervention Center was established in 2009 to cater to the rising cases of autism and other special needs among children in Bacolod. Since then, it has helped ease and enrich the lives of countless children and their families.

Today, Anne continues to passionately share what she knows about autism through her school and in every opportunity that she has. She feels strongly about spreading awareness about autism, which is why last year, she organized the first Autism Awareness Fun Run.

It was such a success that just last Sunday, we celebrated the Second Autism Awareness Fun Run at The District North Point mall in Talisay. The thrust of these events is to inform the public about how important early detection is in the successful management of autism.

As Anne learned and is now sharing, autism in itself is not a tragedy. What is tragic is the ignorance about this affliction and not giving these children the necessary treatment and care. That is why she feels it is important for people to know how to detect autism as early as possible by watching out for these unusual behaviors among children: difficulty in communicating, no eye contact, lining up objects, difficulty in paying attention, repeating phrases or sentences again and again to calm themselves down, flapping their arms when they are happy, or hurting themselves when they’re frustrated.

Autism lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. There is no cure, but treatment can help. These include behavior and communication therapies and medicines to control the symptoms.

The fun run was well attended by groups of families, friends, co-workers and athletes who came to support the event. There was a special category for the children with special needs who joined the 1K category. I took my own children with me and we ran together with their cousins and friends. It was a wonderful way for the community to get together to support the cause and the vision of Anne in spreading awareness about autism.

In spite of all the difficulties of running the school, what keeps Anne going are the smiles and the hugs that she gets from other special children, the light in the eyes of the parents after their special child says “I love you” for the first time and the tears in the parents’ eyes when the children say “thank you.”

But in the midst of Anne’s big contribution to our society—for all her hard work and sacrifices as well as her successes— is still her earnest desire and prayer to see Josh fully recovered. As she places her hopes on this, she continues to be a tremendous blessing to many children and their families, and she continues to be an inspiration to many, including myself.