Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Special Needs Children In The Philippines

We live in a family compound in Dumaguete. Most everyone is somehow related except for Ading and I and a few other families. This social structure is key to understanding how people relate to one another. Families tend to live in close proximity. In the event that some move from rural areas to the city, there seems always to be some relatives nearby or clusters of family. The point being that family is all improtant down to the third and fourth cousins. and believe me, Filipinos keep track somehow.

Our neighors have a Downs Syndrome child at home. The regard for special needs children in the Philippines is historically completely opposite to what has been seen in Western Cultures. Admittedly attitudes have changed in the West, and what was once seen as a curse is seen more as a challenge to maintain some degree of normalcy and inclusion in society.

Here in the Philippines, a special needs child is considered good luck, and a blessing. When I first met Maris, it was a unique experience for me. We had entered their home to say hello and were chatting away when Maris entered the room. Imediately her mother said "this is Maris our blessing", she is our "special child". Maris at once came over and gave us a big hug. She lives a protected life and is held in the highest regard among her family. Every day they take her to school, and recently hosted her debut for her 18th birthday party. They feel exceptional children possess a good spirit and closeness to god. Certainly the gentle innocent nature of the Downs child fosters this impression.

To the best of their ability have created a garden of Eden on their small property. Maris can play with her cat and enjoy a protected existence surrounded by her loving family.

Coming from a society that has treated these conditions as a deficit and a burden to the family, it was another learning experience for me. It was another example of the strength of family and regard for children in the Philippines. Despite her obvious limitations Maris is highly regarded for her gift as a loving child and her closeness to god.

No comments: