A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that in the US, 1 in 68 children are on the an Autism spectrum disorder.
Autism prevalence figures are growing.
For a group of Filipino advocates in New York, parents and their children, the goal is not just to raise more awareness in the community — but to show what young people with autism can do when given the chance to shine.
At the New York Philippine Consulate, a show called the Fashion Arts Autism Benefits “Fashion for Hope,” was held in accordance with Autism Awareness month this past April.
Its organizers were the Autism Hearts Foundation, a non-profit group founded by San Francisco-based Erlinda Borromeo.
Borromeo is the grandmother of Julien, who was diagnosed with autism at 2-years-old. Lost and confused with how to get help for her grandson, she decided to take matters in her own hands.
She took her Masters of Arts in special education, with a focus on autism spectrum, and founded the Autism Hearts Foundation in 2007, as a one-stop shop for families affected by the disorder.
“Looking back, I never thought it would get to this point, to the level that we want it to be, where we want the world to know what we’re doing and sharing how inspired our children would be, how they can maximize their talents… it’s amazing,” Borromeo shared. “And the community, and the appreciation and inclusiveness – it’s amazing. No words can express. I’m happy for the families that they have found their niche, entrepreneur side of their children.”
The show’s artistic creations — made of indigenous materials from the Philippines — all featured intricate and elaborate hand-painted designs by Filipino teens and young adults in the autism spectrum.
These gowns and barongs were designed by Filipino-American designer Anthony Legarda, who loved working with the talented artists.
“As a Filipino-American designer that studied in New York, it was really an expression that I felt I had to give to the world through fashion design,” said Legarda. “And then what makes it more special are these kids, these wonderful, wonderful kids.”