A special kind of motherhood

By: Delta Dyrecka Letigio - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | December 13,2020 - 11:12 AM

Mai Pages, 45, and her son, Fin, 6. | Contributed Photo

CEBU CITY, Philippine — Motherhood is special in itself, but it takes a whole different kind of special if one is blessed with a special child.

This was the statement of Maria Louis (Mai) Pages, a 45-year-old mother of three boys whose youngest son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at a young age.

Mai recently made headlines after netizens lashed at a resort in Lapu-Lapu City for responding insensitively to her review on their failure to handle the needs of her special child.

This incident has brought to light the lack of awareness of the tourism industry on managing customers with ASD and other people with disabilities (PWDs), who are protected by law.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) have conducted parallel investigations on the incident for the alleged discrimination over the child with special needs and his family.

Mai refused to file charges against the resort and said she only wished to draw awareness to people and children with ASD and how society can make it a better and kinder world for them.

Blessing in disguise

Mai was already a mother of two teenage boys when Fin was born in 2014. She said there was no greater blessing than being given another baby in the family, something that she and her sons rejoiced about.

“Having three boys is already a struggle because you have to be tough as a mother. You need to teach them to respect people, to be responsible, to care for women,” said Mai.

The first sign that Fin was different from other children his age was his delayed speech. Mai has noticed that when Fin was called by his name, he would not respond.

As a mother, Mai could intuitively tell that something was off with the development of her son, and she pleaded with her pediatrician to check on this.

“Our pediatrician kept saying nga it’s too early to tell kay two years old pa daw. Pero, I really wanted to see a developmental pediatrician because we wanted to know what was wrong,” said Mai.

The struggles only got worse as developmental pediatricians are scarce in Cebu, with many opting to work abroad for bigger pay. This disparity between demand and supply of doctors only made it more difficult for Fin to get diagnosed.

“It takes a year for some people to find a developmental pediatrician, moinsert, mofight nga matagad ang bata. Naswertean na gani ko nga giaccomodate mi sa usa. This is the struggle for our children with ASD, there are not enough doctors,” said Mai.

Without a proper diagnosis, it can be difficult to conduct therapies for the child as ASD is a broad spectrum of disorders ranging in different symptoms from hyperactivity to reclusiveness.

Only a developmental pediatrician can recommend the best therapy for the child and the best approach a special school must do to help.

Even with the proper diagnosis, therapies, and special schools, the struggle continues on a daily basis for Mai and Fin as children with ASD are fixated on routines.

“Things that are easy for other children are not easy for Fin. We have to respect routine. Kung moadto mig (If we visit a) mall, dapat same nga entrance same area ko magpark because ma anxious man siya if bag-o. Lisod kaayo siya dalhon og (It is difficult to bring him to) places with a lot of people, that is why I take him to nature,” said the mother.

Trips were also difficult to plan as the place must be safe and conducive for the child, with less crowd, and more open spaces where the child can freely express himself.


Nature is therapeutic for children with ASD and this was the reason Mai was determined to bring Fin to the resort in Lapu-Lapu City, as the pandemic has rendered it difficult for Fin to go out and see nature.

At the resort, Fin squealed in delight while enjoying the pool, gaining the attention of the lifeguard who told them off and asked them to keep quiet because the resort had a no noise policy.

Yet the child was obviously enjoying and could not help but get excited. After two more reprimands, Mai took her son back to their room in frustration that Fin could not act the way he should be acting, a child at play.

“That was the first time nga I experienced that kind of treatment in any of the resorts nga gidala namo si Fin. It is so sad nga on top of the struggles of children with ASD, this kind of treatment is there,” said Mai.

Mai is aware that this is one of the reasons why some families would choose to hide their children with special needs from public places, another reason why neuro-typical people never had the need to adjust to them.

The looks other parents give when a child with special needs have a breakdown in public, the insensitive authorities, and the lack of empathy from the community has been heartbreaking for mothers like Mai.

Yet she said people are missing out on the special and unique abilities of children with ASD.

A special gift

Despite the constant struggles of raising a special child, Mai sees everything as a blessing.

Although Fin could not socialize or act like neuro-typical children his age, he has a different understanding and perspective of the world that brings joy to his family.

“Fin is an expressive child because of the ASD. They are naturally expressive compared to other children who may have reservations when dealing with emotions. Fin gives and expresses everything,” said Mai.

The child is also very visual and likes to explore the world around him and appreciate the things that are there, something people often overlook in life.

Although it is natural for parents to struggle to raise a child with special needs, Mai said that the rewards are special as well and would be unique for every spectrum.

Mai hopes that after the incident in the resort and as the government seeks to find justice in what happened, Cebu will become a better place for these special children.

After all, they make the world special in their own way. /rcg

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TAGS: a special kind of motherhood, Mai Pages, special child

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