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Mom's Comic Book Destroys Autism Stereotypes: 'They Are Different, But Not Less Human'
PHOTO BY Bambi Eloriaga-Amago, Roland Amago
  • “Autistic amp!”

    “Ang ot-ot mo!”

    “Para kang autistic!”

    These are some derogatory remarks about autism Filipinos still use today. Bambi Eloriaga-Amago wants to destroy that culture by creating a comic book about autism.

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    “Obviously, these are used in a derogatory manner, as if a person who has it is not normal or is not a whole person. It’s one of the reasons why I felt I needed to tell this story — to destroy those misconceptions,” Eloriaga-Amago tells Esquire Philippines.

    Doobiedoo Asks aims to destroy misconceptions about autism.
    PHOTO BY Bambi Eloriaga-Amago, Roland Amago
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    Doobiedoo Asks is a powerful comic book that delves deep into the autism spectrum without dulling the narrative of the graphic novel. It tells the story of Doobie, a child diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum.

    "But sometimes, his questions can also break your heart."
    PHOTO BY Bambi Eloriaga-Amago, Roland Amago
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    In the comic book, Doobie’s parents grapple with their son’s different behavior, which they compared to a puzzle after many visits to different doctors with different opinions about Doobie.

    Doobie's parents compare his behavior to a puzzle.
    PHOTO BY Bambi Eloriaga-Amago, Roland Amago

    The Intolerant Teacher

    Miss Concepcion is one of the comic book's antagonists.
    PHOTO BY Bambi Eloriaga-Amago, Roland Amago
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    Throughout the novel, Doobie is confronted with an intolerant teacher who discriminated against him and punished him for being different. This teacher also manipulated Doobie’s parents into thinking it was their fault why their son is behaving so differently.

    This teacher made Doobie’s parents believe it was their fault why their son is behaving so differently.
    PHOTO BY Bambi Eloriaga-Amago, Roland Amago
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    This is just one of the story’s many parallels to real-life situations faced by parents with children on the autism spectrum. Highlighted in this novel are Doobie’s transferring of schools, having friends, and attempting to live a normal life, which are some of the greatest sources of anxiety for parents of children with autism.

    “People with autism are different, but it does not make them any less human than you or me. It does not mean they are not whole, as a person. They just have a different manner of doing things, a different manner of thinking,” says Eloriaga-Amago.

    Ms. Concepcion's Manipulative Acts

    Miss Concepcion made Doobie's parents believe that they were failing as parents.
    PHOTO BY Bambi Eloriaga-Amago, Roland Amago
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    Eloriaga-Amago also illustrates how people tend to fall short on persons with autism. Sadly, it’s the adults who tend to ostracize and pick on the differently abled. Doobie’s intolerant teacher even forced his classmates to stay away from him and even kept his parents in the dark about what transpires in the classroom to make them feel responsible for the “misbehaviors” of their child.

    The parents eventually realize they are being manipulated.
    PHOTO BY Bambi Eloriaga-Amago, Roland Amago
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    The Heroes in the Comic Book

    There are a few heroes who stepped up in the graphic novel, and they are those who understood what autism was, and how children with autism respond differently to their environment.

    Miss Peggy, the school directress, took over supervising Doobie’s schooling after learning of the intolerant teacher’s deplorable attitude.

    It was also impressive how children don’t know how to discriminate, as seen in how Doobie’s classmates reached to him despite his being different.

    Breaking The Autism Stereotype

    Doobie's family is just like any other family.
    PHOTO BY Bambi Eloriaga-Amago, Roland Amago
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    Eloriaga-Amago admits she knew very little about autism before her son was diagnosed with it.

    “Before the diagnosis, I did not know much about autism, only what we usually see in the media. That's why when we were first told, I immediately thought of Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man(1988).

    It has also been an eye-opener and learning experience for me to find out that not all people with autism are like Rain Man. Sometimes they are like Dr. Sheldon Cooper,” says Eloriaga-Amago.

    “But then again, I want to make it clear that those are stereotypes. When you meet one person with autism, then you've met one person with autism."

    The author hopes that Doobiedoo Asks will enlighten more people about persons with autism and how society needs to treat them as they are: normal people with different abilities. But much as Doobiedoo Asks educates the reader, it also provides a compelling and beautiful story about a topic less talked about in society.

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    Doobiedoo Asks is written by Bambi Eloriaga-Amago and illustrated by husband Roland Amago. It is an official entry to the 1st Philippine International Comics Festival. To order a copy, you may visit this link.

     This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph.

     *Minor edits have been made by the SmartParenting.com.ph editors.

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