Contextualizing autism detection for Filipino children
14 Jun 2023 | Ateneo Research and Creative Work Portfolio 2023
ANGEL DY is a medical doctor who specializes in autism and neurodevelopmental disorders. Given that research on autism in the Philippines is largely limited, much of Dy’s research was carried out with the aim of creating a larger pool of data on autism and neurodevelopmental disorders in the country.
Her work, in collaboration with UC Davis MIND Institute founding director Randi Hagerman, focused specifically on Fragile X syndrome, and its presence, presentations, and prevalence in the Philippine population. Fragile X syndrome is a genetic disorder which usually causes social and behavioral challenges in those who were diagnosed with it. It is also known to cause intellectual disability and is known to have a higher prevalence in individuals with autism.
“It provided an opportunity to assess or provide assessments for families with children with autism. And at the same time, looking at different genetic causes for autism… we were able to provide free of charge assessment for those families who accepted the invitation to participate in our research work as well,” Dy points out.
Alongside data gathering which seeks to inform policy, Dy’s research has also been effective in community work and capacity building efforts for researchers interested in autism. Aside from their work on autism, they also conduct community mental health training for local government units through partnerships nurtured with the Philippine Department of Health, the World Health Organization, Autism Society of the Philippines, as well as different universities and professionals in Davao and Iloilo. Some of these efforts have been made possible by the Ateneo de Manila University Research Council’s internal research funding.
The field of autism is a sector that needs a lot of support. There are still many gaps both in the clinical setting and in primary care that leave the sector vulnerable. One of the goals of Dy’s research is to bridge those gaps.
“There are so many international guidelines and recommendations. They don’t all apply to us, or we aren't able to apply them because we don’t have the resources that they entail. And we’re hoping that by doing research work, by profiling and understanding what autism looks like in the Philippines, what support they need— then we can actually plan interventions for them,” she says.
Dy notes how the Ateneo community has helped her research pursuits thrive in so many ways. “We are able to do interdisciplinary work not just within the doctors in the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH), but even in collaboration with faculty members from, let’s say Loyola Schools or Ateneo Professional Schools and even beyond.” She then explains that “we are able to collaborate with local government units and other organizations because of Ateneo university’s resources as well. They are willing to partner with us and collaborate with us.”
For more information on ASMPH’s research related to neuro-developmental disorders, visit acri.ph/research/neuro-developmental-disorders. The Ateneo Center for Research Innovation (ACRI) is the research unit of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health. To know more about their work, visit acri.ph.
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