What do you do whenever you see a special needs child? Do you smile at them? Or do you turn away?
Before watching Posible: SPED Students’ Pursuit of Arts last Sunday, I used to do the latter. It’s embarrassing to admit but I wasn’t sure how to behave around them. What if they suddenly throw a tantrum? What should I do so we could understand each other?
Growing up, I didn’t have much experience interacting with them, so to be safe, I just avoided them.
Special Achievers, a non-government organization that helps children and youth with special needs, aims to end this stigma. “Disability exists because we put a limit to what a child with a disability can do. But if we open to persons with a disability, they can be independent. They can be artists and reach whatever it is they want to reach. If we open our understanding, if we open our communities, it’s possible,” said Karen Navarro, Special Achievers co-founder.
John Michael Brecino, one of Special Achievers’ students said that he wants to show people that he can be independent. “I can be normal. I can keep pace with what’s being done in school. This is what I want to show, so they would not be afraid of us,” he said.
Special Achievers created a documentary film featuring the training of 35 special education (SPED) students at San Antonio National High School in Makati. The NGO brought in mentors to teach them music, dance, visual arts, creative arts, and culinary for 3 months.
During the press conference, Karen said that the film documentary is something she has always wanted to create. “This thing has been bugging me for a decade almost. And it's been telling me to go to a public school and bring arts there. It [the idea] has been there all along but we didn't have the resources. But last year, the feeling was, ‘Hey, you have to do it whether you have the resources or not’. I felt like I couldn't live with myself if I don’t do it,” she said.
For Karen, seeing how the training helped the students develop their abilities and made them confident is more than enough reason to continue what they’re doing despite the financial and logistical challenges that they face.
What touched my heart the most during the press conference was hearing from these kids’ parents. When Vico Cham was diagnosed with autism, his father who was then an overseas Filipino worker in Hong Kong had to give up his career to help take care of him. “That was a hard decision to make because I went back to nothing. Advise kasi ng doctor na kailangan for his development ang may father figure so I gave up on Hong Kong despite the opportunities,” he said.
With love and patience, Vico grew up to be a thoughtful and intelligent child who’s exceptional in painting. Just last year, he won the Paralym World Art Cup in Tokyo.
His father was beaming with pride when he shared how he and his wife are now Vico’s dependents on his health card.
Vico, who’s now 28 years old and works as an admin and graphic artist assistant in Unilab Foundation, is a living proof that anything is possible. So the next time I’ll see special needs kids, I’m confident I’ll be able to smile at them and maybe even say hi. – Rappler.com
#GoodRap is a column published every Friday that aims to feature lighthearted yet meaningful stories from here and around the globe. We hope this provides an oasis for anyone who wants to take a quick escape from the gloom and doom of the everyday world.
Rea Gierran joined BrandRap in 2019 as a senior content producer. Most of her favorite work are published on GoodRap, a column that aims to share good news from brands and other private companies. Before joining Rappler, she dabbled in print media and digital marketing.