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An occasionally belligerent mother of four and an autism parent / advocate who believes that traveling, good food and good company are vital to keep one sane. I've worked as a news writer/newscaster, a quality systems auditor, a ISO9001 consultant, an FM radio DJ, a Filipino tutor, TOEFL reviewer and have gone into the food industry both as an entrepreneur and as a mommy chef, giving a sponsored demo on healthy cooking in a mall and on local TV. My favorite job however, is being a mom and a wife.

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Why We Go: Traveling With Our Youngest Mediocre Wanderer - Meet Our Son, MAX

learn to identify Autism symptoms at this LINK
My fourth son, MAX, was diagnosed as having symptoms from the Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was about 2 years old, which was later confirmed to be so when he was around 5. 
 
it's not a journey for the faint-hearted
teaching MAX  to bake: where the only method of instruction needed is love and patience
We were told not to have normal expectations as far as his development would go, especially when it comes to communication and we were also asked to brace ourselves for the challenges that may lie ahead.

SMALL VICTORY: a classmate at pre-school gets MAX to engage in playing "patty-cake"
Autistic folks don’t think the way we “regular” people do. Routine, regularity and the familiar are comforting to them and changing elements in their world may cause meltdowns, discomfort and fear.

MAX's most recent, flight #38 via Philippine Airlines
My husband Phil and I are wanderers at heart. The ultimate high that we get is when we immerse ourselves in another country’s culture, sights and most especially, its cuisine. 
 
low tide in Donsol with a then 2 year old MAX
 
Before he turned one, MAX was our little “pack and go” kid, where trips to the beach and long road trips to Manila (we’re from Baguio) were a norm.

an hour away from our hometown
 
Given our son’s then recent diagnosis and changes in behavior, we were tasked with two choices: leave him behind when we travel and risk having him traumatized by the separation; or bring him along and take him out of his comfort zone.
 
MAX loooves music, but can be a tad sensitive to sounds. Every now and then, he brings along noise canceling ear muffs
We chose the latter and have not looked back ever since.

Just believe in the possibilities
Being a parent of a special needs child, you learn to see the world in a different light. When you bring your special needs child out into that world, you in return, also give him or her, another different perspective. 
 
our little swimmer on a page of Parenting Special Needs Magazine
You enrich their lives as you open your little one’s eyes to a myriad of possibilities. That, in my humble opinion, is really important.

distracting MAX with bubbles after making him wear his UN Day costume for the 1st time
For a kid who still has issues with wearing new clothes and shoes, traveling has allowed our son to open up and shed some of his fears.
no nuggets or fries to fall back on in this Cambodian restaurant in Siem Reap
 
Since he was two, Max has learned to sleep in bedrooms other than his own. He’s learned to eat food that’s unfamiliar; with textures, colors and flavors so far from what he has at home.

enroute to Bellarocca in Marinduque, Philippines
He’s sat among strangers in planes, trains, buses, boats, and water taxis. 
 
riding a water taxi in Bangkok, Thailand
He’s rode on elephants, tuk-tuks, rickshaws, cable cars and horses to get around and has even gone “Superman” - hanging on to a rubber tube that was attached to a boat’s outrigger as the boat pulled us all across a coral garden.
 
holding on to a rubber tube that's attached to the outrigger of a moving boat a.k.a. "Superman"
He’s walked happily across parts of the Great Wall of China; 

 
at the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China
 gone swimming with the whale sharks in Donsol and Oslob, 
 
whaleshark time in Oslob, Cebu
 
 
 
rode fast and scary rides in Hongkong, Malaysia, Singapore and Laguna; 
 
MAX is not a fan of aggressive fishes during fish feeding (taken at Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan)
 
gone fish feeding in the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Balicasag Island in Bohol, Honda Bay in Palawan, Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, and Puerto Galera in the Philippines; 
 
looking "Indy-licious" while exploring Siem Reap's Bayonne Temple
 
gone on a real-life temple run in Siem Reap, Cambodia 
 
MAX's first time to see dolphins (taken in Bais Bay, Dumaguete, Philippines)
and has never seen dolphins in captivity, but always in the wild.
 

splashing about in a hotel pool in Macau, China
Traveling has given our Max, the ability to adapt; something that is often a socially limiting chain from his disability.
 
riding an elephant at the Samphran Elephant Grounds in Thailand
Whenever we travel to a non-English speaking country, I usually have a tiny piece of paper in my purse that has a rough translation of the words “My son is autistic”. It’s not an apology, but an explanation, should he start shrieking, flapping his hands or laugh uncontrollably. This is especially useful when it happens on a red-eye flight.

another first for our brave boy: riding an open cable cart to climb up the Great Wall of China
I’ve met then-strangers who’ve become curious about him and take this as an opportunity to discuss with them what being under the Autism Spectrum implies. 
 
a soothing hug for our intrepid traveler (Taken at the Aguinid Falls in Cebu)
 
Traveling allows me to have a bigger venue to raise awareness on Autism.

meeting Tigers at the zoo here was quite different from our previous experiences
It is my hope that as we continue to travel with MAX, he shall continue to realize that he is a part of this world. That his world is bigger than just what he sees at home and that different doesn’t have to mean “scary”. 
 
someone enjoyed riding a tuk-tuk that he would linger before getting off it, as we arrive at our destination
 
By bringing him along to share in the joys of traveling, he can see that the world has so much to offer and he can be a part of it all. 
 
going on a power walk is an understatement at Angkor Wat
 
After all, “your view of life grows bigger the further you are from home”.

MAX's most favorite ride in the world!
 We also hope that through him, we may be able to spread a message of hope to others living with someone with special needs to never give up on them and to teach the world, one person at a time: to support, instead of to push; to understand, instead of to pity; to accept, instead of to tolerate and most of all, to love unconditionally. 

And this is why we go. 

Mr. Spiffy on his way to explore the island


From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!

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