Friday, 16 August 2013

There's hope for Autism!

I remember way back in the mid-1990s when my sister Chato was worried about her daughter. Mrs. Ladron of the toddler school where my niece was enrolled in, found her behavior way too rowdy and too independent for a three year old and recommended that she goes to Cupertino Center instead. At that time, there was only one school for special children and most of the students were autistic.

My niece was enrolled for 3 months or so. until my sister pulled her out when she started copying her classmates and was banging her head against the wall, desk or floor.  Autistic children would display certain behaviors and head banging is the most common. Chato took her  to Berkeley where she, after several tests, was diagnosed with ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It was fairly novel then and since the symptoms were quite similar with autism, the two conditions more often than not, caused confusion and even misdiagnosis.

J.A.  next to his stamp
(photo from
Mayo Clinic defines autism as a "spectrum disorder that affects a child's ability to communicate and interact with others."  According to CDC, autism is now more prevalent than childhood cancer. The rate is rather alarming in the United States, with stats indicating one in 88 children diagnosed with autism versus 16 in 100,000 children with cancer.  In the Philippines, the incidence is still low.  Autismpinoy said that at least one in 150 children is autistic.

That's why I was happy to hear that Jose Antonio "J.A." Tan is back in Manila to open his second one-man exhibit called "On and On... Step by Step" on August 21. He's the inspiration to those with autism and/or other development disabilities.

Like my niece, J.A. was 3 years old when he was diagnosed with autism. His was high functioning autism which literally means he is higher functioning than others with the same affliction.

At 5 years old, he started painting and from then on, has managed to overcome his challenges through his art.  He said "I have come to the realization that I have always used art as a way of  helping myself bring out my thoughts, feelings and ideas. I consider it an integral part of my existence as each work is a personal journey of myself with myself, and myself with the world, bringing a feeling of peace and happiness since things become clearer to me through the images and visual pictures before me."

"Victory" (Photo from
Now 25-years old, he has already accomplished quite a lot - -  He graduated from Emily Carr University of Art in 2010, followed by a one-man show in Manila (his first), then participated in group shows in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Last year, his  painting "Victory" (left) was chosen from over 200 submissions to be part of the eight stamp collection of the United Nations Postal Administration's Autism Awareness Campaign. His artwork was issued as a stamp on April 22, 2012. Note that the print is part of the exhibition in Manila.

To those who want to meet the artist who braved all odds, the opening reception  is on August 21 from 6:30 to 9:30pm.  The exhibit will run until September 3, 2013 at the Artist Space, ground floor of the Ayala Museum.

No comments: