Fil-Am families observe National Autism Awareness Month

By Connie Macatula-De Leon, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

April 29, 2014

BOLINGBROOK, IL – One in 68 children in America has autism according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the United States alone, there are over two million with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD, the fastest-growing developmental disability in America.

According to Autism Speaks, autism costs a family an average of $60,000 a year, a cost that may be too steep for average to low-income families.

As research continues to determine the cause of autism, so does the prevalence of autism worldwide, a 10-time increase over the last 40 years.

EJ Macatula, 21, and Christopher Paz are cousins and were both diagnosed with autism as early as age three.

As they both transition to the adult program since their entitlement to public education ends at age 21, the families are preparing for the next steps.

“Once he turns 22, he’ll be going out doing what people without disabilities are doing. They’d be doing little jobs to help out the community, he will be interacting with the community even more, he’ll be doing vocational jobs and he would be living a life as any other person would if they didn’t have the disability,” said EJ’s brother Andrew Macatula.

The government’s aid continues even after 21 years of age.

These services include education or vocational training, employment, living arrangements and community participation, among others.

The financial security of individuals with autism is supported by Medicaid and Supplement Security Income, two of the public benefits provided by the US government.

“It makes me feel really proud and happy to live in the States knowing that people who are behind the scenes are helping out those with special needs. It is a true blessing to have, knowing that they’re always behind our backs,” said Macatula.

“Just because they have disabilities or they have autism doesn’t mean they are inhibited to do other things what we can do because they are very capable of doing things that we also do,” said Christopher’s sister, Melissa Paz.

With the government and the community, family members of those with autism say they are confident their loved ones can reach their full potential despite their limited circumstances.

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