Budding Artist, Animal Lover, Assistant Coach
Ivan Romarrio Gomez
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Ivan has an unruffled personality and beautiful manners that are somewhat unexpected of a teenager. His flat tone of voice and big eyes that don’t quite meet yours hint at his autism spectrum disorder.
As a little boy, he had to deal with severe sensory issues. He would react badly when irritated by things such as the stitched inner labels of his t-shirts, collars and sleeves.
Ivan only started speaking at the age of five and still has difficulty expressing himself verbally, or relating events that upset him. His mum took the opportunity to work on his environment to better his life. She introduced him to the neighbours and got him involved in the community to help them understand his condition better. Ivan now travels on his own, and the neighbours help keep an eye out for him.
When asked about his favourite food, he swiftly answers, “Crispy chicken wings and char kway teow.” He likes playing mobile games, watching videos, reading books and sleeping. Although Wi-Fi is a must-have for him, he does have a healthy daily duration with smart devices.
He has an affinity with big dogs, such as golden and Labrador retrievers, and can spend hours just hanging out with them.
He’s been a big fan of Disney animated classics since he was eight so they are often the subjects of his drawings. Ivan enjoys drawing and has received various trophies for his art. Just a few years ago, LASALLE College of the Arts featured his artwork in a group exhibition.
While reserved with strangers, he has a great relationship with his parents, especially his father. They enjoy kicking a football around together. Ivan misses his father when he goes on overseas work trips, and counts down the days to his return.
Ivan also assists him in coaching other teenagers with special needs. This is a great personal accomplishment for Ivan as he was born with low muscle tone. They’re so serious about it that their physical training feels like a boot camp on more than one occasion. Ivan is hot on the participants’ heels during each session, spurring them on to “Run faster!”
People can be apprehensive about Ivan’s differences because they are not familiar with his disability. But if you look beyond his disability, you’ll see the true Ivan. As his mum always says, “Autism is what my son has, not who my son is.”