Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sunny Days (Alvin's Inspirational Speech from the 2014 Commencement Exercise of Optimal Academy)

After what seemed to be a long while, Kevin was blessed to have been a part of Special Education once more after we came back to Manila last year.  That we landed with Optimal Academy was not a mere happenstance, if I look back.  I was in a meeting with Kevin's speech therapist in another center when I saw the school's flyer propped at the desk. I took one and thought that this is what Kevin needed. We have been looking for a new school for him somewhere within south. Alvin and I decided to visit their school that week. And rest, is history.

In Optimal Academy's Commencement Exercise and Recognition Day for undergraduates, my husband Alvin had the privilege of giving an inspirational talk about a father and son's journey through life's challenges.  Known as "Daddy Alvin" at school, he is a mainstay at Optimal Academy.  All the students know him and in a way, he is sort of a father figure for them as well alongside Sir John (school President), especially for the teenage boys.

Alvin's speech brought tears to my eyes, remembering the poignant days when we were starting out as young parents for Kevin and Kyla.  But it also gave me an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness to the Lord, for giving me a better half who is truly our hero in every sense of the word.  

This is the transcript of his speech....

"Good afternoon to all!

Some of you already know me because I always go to Optimal Academy with my son Kevin.  Today, let me introduce myself a little bit more.

I am a Chemical Engineer by profession, and worked for years in San Miguel Corporation until Kevin was diagnosed with ASD with Apraxia when was nearly 3 years old.  My wife Armie, who is also a Chemical Engineer, is the one literally supporting our family right now.  So I would like to thank her for doing the job that I am supposed to do.  She once told me, that we all have roles in life... And this is my role.

Ten years ago, my wife and I decided that one of us should focus on attending to Kevin full-time, so that we can understand his needs better and help him in the process.  At first, it wasn't easy for me to accept the role that I am doing.  I felt ashamed of myself when some of my peers would ask me where I am working.  I am afraid that some of them will not understand me, especially those who don't know Kevin and his challenges.  Well it doesn't really matter, as long as I am getting the love and respect from my wife and my kids, it's fine with me.

Then, I learned about Stock Market Online.  That changed everything.  It's not much, but enough to bring back my self confidence and improve my skills.  So every day, Kevin and I go to Optimal Academy for him to study,  and for me to work (on my stocks) and assist him.  With God's help, we found the best set up for the two us.

Kevin has a sister, her name is Kyla.  Everyday, after coming from school, the first thing that Kyla would do is check Kevin's diary.  She also likes teaching Kevin at home.  Whenever she has no class, she always come with us in Optimal Academy to help Kevin and the other students too. One day she told us that she would like to be a teacher for special children and that she will open her own school someday.

Among the parents here, I would say I am lucky, to have the opportunity to see these children every day.  So please allow me share to you some of my observations in the school.

First, they are learning because they are happy.  Unlike most of us, we become happy only if we get the things we want in life.  But for these students, happiness comes first.  They go to school every day excited, because they know that they will have fun.  They like going to school, and they love the people in Optimal Academy.  I challenge you..., visit Optimal Academy and count the people that will greet you.  Some students will even hug you!  And then, go to other schools and see if you'll get the same. The feeling of being welcomed and accepted makes them ready to listen and learn.  So, make them happy and they will learn.  I remember the time when I taught Kevin how to use chopsticks.  He learned it in just one day simply because he likes to eat and he was happy.

The second point that I would like to share is, not every day is a Sunny Day... But I am sure, Sunny Days will always come.  There will be days with crying and resistance... and there will be days, they will surprise you on how fast they learn.

When Kevin was six years old, his Developmental Pediatrician told us that Kevin will never talk... that we can already stop his Speech therapy, and start teaching him PECS (Picture-Exchange Communication System).  It was hard to accept, but we followed the doctor's recommendation.  We introduced PECS to him.  However, we did not stop his Speech therapy.  In short, we did not give up... and will never give up.

After four years, at age 10, he started communicating with us verbally.  He learned to say simple words like, "I want to eat" when he is hungry, "I want to sleep" when he is tired and "I want toilet" when he wants to go...

And then January of this year, just three months ago..., Kevin started reading.  Something we did not expect.  Believe it or not, our goal for this school year is just for him to learn the alphabet... Just the simple A, B, C.  It took him a while... but he's now getting there.

THANK YOU to the teachers of Optimal Academy for your patience and always believing on him.  Truly, everything will fall into the right place, at the right time... IN GOD'S TIME!

And today, to all the graduates, TODAY IS YOUR TIME! So congratulations to you all for a job well done.  And to the other students, as Teacher Lani always say, "YOU CAN DO IT"..., "WE CAN DO IT!"

I would like to end my sharing with a short video for you to know and understand Kevin.  Hope you'll like it.  Thank you and good day!"