Living beyond autism …Young Phil inspires others

Living beyond autism …Young Phil inspires others

● Phil Benito

 Africa’s only autistic cyclist, Young Phil Bertino continues to inspire other children with dis­abilities to reach out for their goals as the world marked Autism Day recently.

The 16-year-old who is gradually becoming a global icon despite being autistic was engaged in awareness campaigns as the month had been set aside for autism.

With a support from the Lizti­no Centre for Children with Special Needs, Young Phil since he was diag­nosed with autism at age four, fought against all odds to live an independent life to become an example to others.

The young lad who plays the piano, rides bicycle, swims and plays tennis, managed to survive the childhood disorder and now living his best life as a normal kid, setting himself as an example to other children.

He had over the years, made donations to the needy in society, courtesy support from his parents Mr and Mrs Bertino as part of efforts to create awareness and inspire others to become better.

AUTISM DAY

This year’s autism month celebra­tions was no exception as the mother of Young Phil and the CEO of the Liz­tino Centre, Mrs Angel Acquah Bertino used her ward’s story to inspire par­ents and other kids to become better.

The United Nations General As­sembly unanimously declared April 2 (every year) as World Autism Aware­ness Day to highlight the need to help improve the quality of life of those with autism so they can lead full and meaningful lives as an integral part of society.

Autism is a lifelong neurological condition that manifests during early childhood, irrespective of gender, race or socio-economic status.

The term Autism Spectrum refers to a range of characteristics. Appropri­ate support, accommodation and ac­ceptance of this neurological variation allow those on the Spectrum to enjoy equal opportunity, full and effective participation in society.

SEMINAR

During a seminar at the Aburi Girls’ Senior High School (SHS) on April 2 to mark the World Autism Day, Mrs Ac­quah Bertino encouraged schools and communities to accept autistic chil­dren and provide them with the plat­form to engage in social and sporting activities to enable them to discover their full potentials.

She emphasised that students needed to be enlightened to carry out the message to their homes and communities.

“We have been engaged in this awareness creation for the past four years and needed to extend the mes­sage to schools and communities to get everyone involved,” she stated.

She said, it was important to con­stantly remind Ghanaians on the need to support autism children to live a normal life by taking a cue from Young Phil’s development.

She urged the government and community leaders to take the canker seriously by providing resources in supporting children with autism and other forms of disabilities.

“It is important to make our schools, churches, work places, play grounds and other facilities autistic friendly so children with such dis­orders could live comfortably,” she stated.

She also urged corporate entities to come on board to support their aware­ness campaign as it would go a long way to bring change as far as support for autism in Ghana was concerned.

She said, they would hold this year’s Autism Awareness Creation with Cycling next weekend and urged all to come on board to support.

She said, Young Phil was living an independent life, courtesy support from family and urged communities to come together to support families to raise their children with special needs.

BACKGROUND

Phil Bertino, is the first child of Mr Phil Bertino and Mrs Elizabeth Acquah Bertino. He was born a healthy child and grew up with no sign of abnor­mality, but his development took a different turn at age six when he was diagnosed to be autistic.

The signs had started when he was about two years old. The one letter words he could easily pronounce had disappeared and he was only making unintelligible sound.

When the condition started to worsen at age three, his parents sought medical attention and were advised to enroll him in a speech ther­apy. He enrolled for six months but there was no remarkable progress.

Determined to ensure he grew up a ‘normal child,’ his parents tried other medical and spiritual remedies but eventually had to come to terms with the reality that Phil was, indeed, autistic.

The knowledge of the condition and the fact that it has no cure was unbearable for the couple, but this however did not crush Phil’s dream of becoming a professional cyclist.

In September 2021, he was part of over 70 professional riders at the 17th edition of the Teshie Homowo Cycling Challenge.

He put up a splendid performance to finish his 76km race in 2:45:33secs with an average speed of 27.56km/h. He received massive cheers for his efforts and was presented with a spe­cial trophy, medal and jersey for his achievement on the day.

 By Michael D. Abayateye

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