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OUR FAMILY'S JOURNEY

At 18 months, my husband and I noticed that Enzo was different. He wouldn't respond to us when called, and would cry when he was changing his clothes.

Lorenzo Calleja, our eldest child, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at an early age. At 18 months, my husband and I noticed that Enzo was different. He wouldn't respond to us when called, and would cry when he was changing his clothes. We knew something was wrong, and we immediately booked an appointment with a Developmental Pediatrician.

We were very amazed that Enzo was so engaged. There were sessions that he would paint for 2 hours at a time.

Being his parents, even if we were much younger then and did not know any better, we were devastated. We had no clue on how to handle such a big responsibility. It's as if the Earth fell on our shoulders. But one day I pulled myself together, and decided to do what we can for our son. Dean, my husband, was on board. Thus, we became a team then.

Being an educator and special needs teacher, I had friends who were therapists who evaluated our son, and then we started having his interventions--preschool and therapy. As Enzo got older, we wanted to try out many new things and sports for him. It was a trial and error period, as he was still developing his basic skills. Since we also did the biomedical treatment--it was expensive. No preservatives. And we bought supplements from abroad. We have opted to be all-natural--our food at home is organic, gluten-, casein-, and sugar-free. He started to show much improvements, such as eye-to-eye contact, listening and sitting for 30 seconds.

It has changed our perspective--gratitude, and really, no judgements. We're all doing what we can, with what we have at a certain point.

Being an autism family also meant more expenses--and I tell you, God provided for all his needs. We also worked hard to provide for his expenses, but there were instances wherein we would just say, “Wow, thank you Lord.” We couldn't understand what happened, but all his bills were paid. God is so good to us that our parents--both Dean's and mine--are very loving and supportive of us and Enzo, up to this day. That's a big factor for us, as far as our support system goes. They too, are very generous to Enzo with their time, energy, and at times helps us with Enzo's financial needs.

When we told our parents about Enzo's diagnosis, there were no judgements. They all said that we should work together to help him get his interventions. In fact, my mother-in-law asked me if I wanted to move to the U.S., for Enzo, and she was going to support us. I said to her that I think we have enough interventions available here, but I was very thankful for the gesture.

We had no clue on how to handle such a big responsibility. It's as if the Earth fell on our shoulders.

We were a young, starting family when Enzo started to have several interventions, and we were building our first home. These interventions--apart from it being expensive--we also had to wait in line to get a slot. Aside from our day jobs--I own a preschool, and my husband worked as the Department Head of DSWD--we also invested in a restaurant in 2006, which did very well and helped us sustain Enzo's interventions such as occupational therapy (behavioral therapy), speech therapy, aqua therapy, music therapy.


Dean and myself, being young parents, had to prioritize Enzo's education and interventions. What we got out of it is that we became more mature and really had to budget our time, energy, funds, and prioritize our expenses. We couldn't just spend it mindlessly.

Being an autism family also meant more expenses--and I tell you, God provided for all his needs.

We wanted his development to be holistic. We started him with aqua therapy, swimming, music therapy--aside from school and his occupational therapy. We also taught him many daily living skills at home, such as bathing, brushing his teeth, and dressing up independently. He also had to do chores at home, like sweeping and mopping the floor, helping us carry the groceries.

Every year, we would set target goals that were reachable for him. He started to ride the school bus in 2014, we traveled with ease to the US, Singapore, Hong Kong, and we had fun as a family. It was in 2013, when Enzo was 9, that we were invited by a former parent of my preschool before to try out painting. So we did. We were very amazed that Enzo was so engaged. There were sessions wherein he would paint for 2 hours at a time. This is it, I told my husband, we found one of his interests. Enzo is also a swimmer, and loves working out.

Through the years, we were invited to exhibit his work in different art galleries, for different occasions. We were so happy and proud of Enzo. Despite his challenges and different abilities, he is a shining star and an inspiration to many.

There is no right nor wrong, and that society does not dictate what we should do or not do.

Our journey is not an easy one. We went through many challenges, but what it has made us is to love each other more, pray more. It has changed our perspective--gratitude, and really, no judgements. We're all doing what we can, with what we have at a certain point. There is no right nor wrong, and that society does not dictate what we should do or not do.

We, as his parents, must prepare him and ourselves for the future. We do not want Enzo to be a burden to his younger sister, Katrina, nor to anyone when we are gone.

I always share our story to inspire many special needs families. Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We must believe and have faith in God, and in our kids. I may not always have the answers, or I too, am lost--but this, I know: that the Lord has bigger and better plans for each one of us. His plans are so big that we can't even imagine it.

Team Socceroo

Last 2018, Enzo turned 15 years old. My husband and I planned to send him to boarding school for him to be more independent and self-reliant. Whether we like it or not--we, as his parents, must prepare him and ourselves for the future. We do not want Enzo to be a burden to his younger sister, Katrina, nor to anyone when we are gone. So as difficult as it was, we sent him to that boarding school. It has been 2 years and it has taught us all: Enzo, Dean, myself, and Katrina more about ourselves. It proves to have been the Lord's will, as He led us there. It was all unplanned, and the events just happened.

Through the years, we were invited to exhibit his work in different art galleries, for different occasions. We were so happy and proud of Enzo...They chose 4 of his artworks to be featured. They printed gift tags with these artworks, which we sold online...

When Enzo was already at the boarding school, I had the chance to clean up and fix all his paintings at home. Suddenly, the NVC (Negrense Vounteeers for Change--a foundation to help the undernourished children of Negros) emailed me about featuring his artworks. Again it was unplanned, but the Holy Spirit led me to say, ‘Yes’ to this project. They chose 4 of his artworks to be featured. They printed gift tags with these artworks, which we sold online and in the Negros Fair.

We, as a family, did this to help the children be fed Mingo meals--a nutritious instant complementary food made of rice, mongo (mung beans), and malunggay (moringa)--as they weren't developing at par with their age due to their lack of nutrients. All we asked is that they tell Enzo's story at the back of the cards--that he is living with autism, and we are using this opportunity to help others, despite our own challenges.

We must believe and have faith in God and in our kids. I may not always have the answers, or I too am lost...

Christmas 2018, the gift tags were sold out in 1 week! The Lord is truly wonderful and great! The money that we raised was used to feed the children for 6 months straight. Such a wonderful blessing to have this chance to help and share our story, to inspire many, especially those in the provinces, as their resources are limited in terms of knowledge and information. This was concrete evidence that if we believe and have faith in the Lord, His gifts are limitless.

Christmas 2019, both NVC and I decided to print more because previously, there were more orders than we could accommodate. Again, it was sold out in 2 weeks! So now our beneficiaries can be fed for 1 whole year to help them grow and develop with the proper nutrients.

It is such a blessing to be able to help, not just these kids, but many autism families. And again, YES--there is light at the end of the tunnel. Just hang on, and have faith. We never planned for these events, nor did we even think of it. It clearly is led by the Holy Spirit and by Jesus.

All praise and glory to the Lord.

All we asked is that they tell Enzo's story at the back of the cards--that he is living with autism, and we are using this opportunity to help others, despite our own challenges.

In the beginning, what we just wanted to be the best parents to Enzo, and to bring up good children. And this is what God had in store for us. Truly amazing! As I write this story, I wish that our family's love and light reach you and your families. Don't lose hope. Believe.


As I end this, I will share my favorite Bible verse with you all.


Luke 11: 9-10

“Ask and you’ll receive. Seek and you’ll discover. Knock on heaven’s door, and it will one day open for you.

Story by Enzo’s mom, Felicia Calleja

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