“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”
– Angela Schwindt
My name is Tito. My wife, Jecelyn, and I are parents of twin boys who were both diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We have decided to write this blog to serve as our family journal as we journey through the world of autism. We would also like to spread awareness about autism and hope that our experiences would be helpful to other parents of children with similar condition.
Let me begin with our “love story…”
Jecelyn and I first met on January 2003. We were colleagues at a semiconductor company in Makati, Philippines. We started out as good friends and became a couple in February of 2006. We tied the knot on January 2010. During this time, Jecelyn and I were both working in Singapore.
We hoped to have kids as soon as we could, but we found it difficult to conceive; we even consulted a fertility doctor to help us on this. And after several attempts, an operation, and some medications, we were blessed to conceive with not just one, but twins.
As we were expecting the pregnancy to be delicate, Jecelyn and I decided that she would resign from her job and return to the Philippines when she is about to give birth.
On the fourth month of pregnancy, we were informed that we were having two boys. We decided to name them Phil and Zander – their full names taken from their grandparents.
Jecelyn’s pregnancy with the twins was not easy. She had gestational diabetes. We usually hear ladies use their pregnancy as an excuse to eat more; but for Jecelyn, it was not the case – she had to watch her diet closely. She even had to take insulin shots to control her blood sugar levels. She also had to go on regular check-ups and scans to see how the babies were doing. We noticed, even from earlier scans, that Zander was relatively smaller compared to Phil. The sonographer even told us once, that Zander would be lucky to make it out alive and healthy. But we believed he could.
I will always remember talking to the boys while they were still in their mommy’s womb. We ask them to be strong and to help each other out while they were still inside. We told them how excited we were to see them… to hold and kiss them. And it seems they were listening.
And so, our boys were born on the morning of April 25, 2013 in Bacolod City, Philippines. They were born a few weeks premature at 36 weeks because the doctors noticed that the discordance between the twins became significant. Phil was born healthy but Zander had to stay for a few days in the NICU because the doctors saw some infection in his blood.
Despite all those challenges, we were just happy to finally hold the boys in our arms. We were just blessed to have them in our lives. I could still remember my father calling them, “miracle boys,” when they were born… I sincerely agree with him.
The first few months of being parents was a tough adjustment period – sleepless nights, late night feedings, and seemingly endless crying from the boys. But all those were worth it whenever we see those beautiful smiles.
During the first 12 months, their development was within what was expected. They were both happy babies. But, at around 3 months, Zander had began to suck his thumb to soothe himself to sleep; while Phil was dependent on a pacifier to keep him calm at times.
On their 6th month, we brought the twins to Singapore so that our family would be together. Jecelyn has decided to become a full-time homemaker and be hands-on in taking care of the boys.
As the months pass, we noticed that Zander was a bit behind with their milestones when compared to Phil. Phil could walk unassisted at 13 months; Zander was able to do this at around 14 months. At 14 months, Phil could speak single words; Zander was able to do it at around 20 months. At 18 months, Phil can already say two-word phrases; Zander was able to do it only at around 25 months. At two years old, we noticed that Phil had began learning new words, naming images, letters, numbers and colors – but Zander was disinterested. We thought back then that he was just not ready – that somehow he would show interest; so, we just leave him be.
During this time, we also noticed that the twins rarely interact with each other. They would seldom play with each other even though they were together most of the time. But they would still react when other people would play with them or talk to them; giving smiles, giggles or laughs most of the time. So, even with those delays and lack of social interaction we still thought they were normal, typical babies – just delayed because they were born premature anyways.
Also, at around two years old, we noticed Zander having poor eye contact and that he became very interested in lining up toys. He also developed a habit of lying in prone position and flapping his legs while sucking his thumb whenever he was bored. This sent red flags to us – but still, we did not seek any professional opinion on it.
It was around their 30th month mark that a pediatrician told us to consider getting Zander assessed for ASD. He also noticed the lack of social interaction, poor eye contact and very few words from Zander. And this is when our autism journey began…