Philippines International Autism Conference – Day 1
We arrived here in Manila after traveling over 24 hours from NYC to attend the International Autism Conference (IAC). We were greeted royally by media and representatives from the Autism Hearts Foundation (AHF), despite the early local time of 3:30 a.m. After breakfast, one of the major Filipino television networks, GMA, interviewed several of the scientists who will be presenting Wednesday through Friday. Lynda Borromeo, with AHF kicked off the press event and than introduced David Amaral, Ph.D. from the M.I.N.D. Institute. Dr. Amaral spoke of how pleased he was “to see autism research blossom in the Philippines,” indicating that working collaboratively was part of the mission of the M.I.N.D. Institute. Autism Speaks’ Andy Shih, Ph.D. added that “we will learn from the Filipino autism community which will help us to understand the needs to speed solutions.”
Not only will the IAC bring some of the world’s most renowned autism researchers to speak to the Filipino autism community, it will also allow for the Filipino autism community to speak back and share their stories with the world. Today, we had the opportunity to speak with a Filipino mother of a 15-year-old child who has autism. She was one of the fortunate parents in the Philippines to have her child diagnosed at a very early age. However for families outside of the capital of Manila, access to diagnostic services and treatment is much harder to come by. She shared some startling statistics. While a large-scale epidemiology study has yet to be conducted in the Philippines, local experts estimate that there are at least 500,000 affected children. Of those 500,000, only five percent ever receive a professional diagnosis. And of those, only two percent receive the necessary intervention services. It is stories like these that will help shed light on the scale of the autism problem in the Philippines and from which, programs can be developed to help address these most dire needs.
By Dana Marnane, National Director Communications and Marketing, Autism Speaks and Michael Rosanoff, MPH, Assistant Director, Public Health and Scientific Review.