A Parent's Journey With Autism
Published Nov 09 2021 05:00 AM 1,794 Views
Bronze Contributor

In November, The MVP Blog is featuring members of our community who have experienced challenging times during COVID and how they managed to overcome and find the silver lining.


People on the autism spectrum see, hear, feel, and experience the world differently. This is something that Azure MVP Michael John Timpoc Peña noticed in his own son about age 1. Michael’s wife, who is on the spectrum, pointed out delays in their child’s speech development and focus, and the new parents began seeking medical support in Sydney, Australia.


Fast forward one year later, and in the middle of the global pandemic, Michael’s son was formally diagnosed with severe autism.


Michael, who is originally from The Philippines, says he approached the diagnosis like a software engineer. “In the first weeks of seeing delays, my mind was focused on ‘the fix’ to ‘my problems’.” 


“My inner software engineer approached this as a ‘bug’ in my life that I could debug and resolve. Looking back, I think I was aiming for the right answers, but I was asking the wrong questions.”


“Weeks before the official diagnosis, I came to a state of mind that ‘a result’ won’t change my love, support, and affection for my son. When the official diagnosis came, I didn’t feel shocked or anxious because throughout the journey, deep inside, I kind of knew. I was more relieved because now, we had a clearer pathway on how we can support him.”


Today, Michael says he approaches the diagnosis by asking himself key questions, like:


  • How can Michael and his wife collectively support their son in all aspects?
  • How can their son be equipped to learn?
  • How can their son be more independent?
  • What activities can the parents do that he’ll enjoy?

“Now, it’s less about me and more about his needs,” Michael says.


The MVP community has been a “very welcoming environment” throughout Michael’s time in the program. In addition to innovative tech topics, Michael says that he is glad to see “tech for good” initiatives focus on accessibility, neurodiversity, inclusivity, and mental health.


“We should celebrate everyone’s uniqueness but also understand that we’re also not so different from each other,” Michael says. “I’ve learned to think less of myself and try to listen and be more effortful in understanding other people’s points of view.”


Most recently, Michael started fundraising for Run For Autism 2021, a weeklong challenge at the start of November to run seven kilometres every day for seven days. So far, Michael has raised more than AUD$1000 for the charity drive.


“For many people with autism, simply coping with everyday life can lead to confusion, anxiety and isolation,” Michael says. “By coming together and taking action, we can help provide opportunities for people on the autism spectrum to participate, engage and thrive in the world around them.”


For more on Michael, visit his Twitter @mjtpena and website.

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