My heart skipped a beat and my whole world stopped for a second when I heard my six-year old cousin recites the alphabet in a tongue-twisted manner and stuttering tone. It may not be that extraordinary to some but for me and for the rest of my family, it was a big leap for our little boy, because he is special.
Normally, a six year old kid should be able to pronounce words clearly and can use complex grammatical forms accurately. They can even draw figures and write letters. They can read and are capable of counting up to 200 and count backwards from 20. But unlike normal kids, what my six-year-old cousin can do is to count 1 to 10 and say his whole name in a fuzzy way.
At first, we thought that he was just a late bloomer but as years passed no improvement from the way he speaks and from the way he behaves have been manifested. Even now, he cannot say what he wants without grabbing my Auntie’s hand while making obscure noises. He often shouted for no apparent reason and make unnecessary actions that sometimes put him at risk. I can still remember his past birthdays where his mom has to blow the candles for him since he does not know how to blow it himself. From his behavior, we suspect that he may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But we are still unsure since we are still waiting for the result of his therapy.
According to a Social Weather (SWS) survey commissioned by Department of Health (DOH) in 2004, 7% of Filipino household has at least one family member who is disabled. Never in my life have I thought that we would belong to that small percentage and never have I expected that it will be the son of one of my favorite aunties. I guess the odds are not just in our favor.
Not that we are not happy for having our little champ, in fact we are more blessed to have him. But would it be more exciting when our angel can play normally with other kids without hurting them or without hurting himself? Would it be more fun when he can go to school to learn new things and meet new friends?
Face it. Rearing a special child is difficult. They have to be given full attention, love, care and so much understanding. You can’t simply take your eyes of them because they might unconsciously hurt others or themselves. Furthermore the availability and cost of special schools and facilities for special children is a challenge.
In the Philippines as of 2004 there are about 21 DOH hospitals that have rehabilitation program/units/centers representing 22% of all DOH hospitals. There are also other private schools and centers that were built to assist children with disabilities.
Right now, my auntie is hoping that she could enroll her son in one of the special public schools here in our city. Even if they are more willing to spend money for the education and future of their son, they just could not afford the cost of a private center and tutor.
I may not understand how parents feel after hearing the first word of a kid. But I know that it would be one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. Reciting the alphabet in a stuttering voice gives us hope that one day our little champ will finally be able to say “mama” and “papa”. And I will be patiently waiting for him to call me “ate”. While doing that, we will do our best to give him the attention, care and love that he rightfully deserves.