The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

27 July 2011

Unheard Voices of Special Commuters



By Ren V. Oira, Directress of Footsteps Learning Center Inc.


ASP National Office, together with other PWD Groups, attended an Orientation on LRT Accessibility and Safety Features in Compliance to BP 344 (Accessibility Law). The orientation took place at the Santolan Depot, and is followed by a Forum.


The Orientation-Forum is part of the Regional Program Disability Affairs’ project for the 33rd NDPR or National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week. Below, the author documents her perspective on Accessibility for Persons with Autism.



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Thursday is one of my favourite days, not because the next day will be Friday, but because, it is our Community Integration Day. Community Integration Day (CID) is one of the programs of our special education class. And as a teacher, I always looked forward to it; including the assistant teachers.




Who else get excited during this day? Our special learners, and of course, the parents, who are excited to see their children’s reactions and new experiences outside the school environment.



“Can he ride tricycle or walk from school to nearby supermarket without throwing tantrums?” “Can he sit in the Adoration Chapel for a period of time without disturbing other parishioners?” “What if he can’t control himself from getting other people’s French Fries or Soft Drinks at Jollibee?” “What if people might look at him because of his stereotypic behaviours?” These are some of the apprehensions we receive from the parents; so we encouraged them to join us in one of our Community Integration Day.




Our SPED Team believes that Simulation Exercises help our special learners prepare for community integration. We showed them pictures of LRT, how to use the card pass, how to fall in line, and we taught them to walk slowly.




After a short trip to the nearby supermarket, plus a trip to the church and Jollibee; the team decided to take LRT 2 as a means of transportation going to Araneta Center Cubao. Parents and guardians also joined us.




PWAs with Teacher Ren (3rd from left) during the LRT ride





During the LRT ride, one of the security guards assigned at the Cubao Station courtesy lane advised the parents and guardians to let the children with autism ride in the “special coach”. One of the mothers was puzzled because the children they were travelling with had no physical disabilities.




ED Note: The LRT “Special Coach” was designed to meet and ensure safety and comfort of disabled persons in public transport vehicles by providing them with special facilities. A presidential order was issued following complaints from the physically disabled sector that most urban mass transportation systems have not adequately provided for their needs. But, children with autism have different needs.




Another mom related that she was satisfied with most of the security guards, as they usually greet her daughter (also with autism) with a smile, whenever they would ride the LRT. When one of the moms tried to explain that her child with autism needed to be accompanied, the guard then asked, “Bakit? Anong meron siya?”




Mothers of our special learners can readily answer questions like these, when they want their children with autism to be understood; but not when the LRT Train is already there in front of them! She would like to however explain what autism in more detail, if time allowed. Children with autism have no “physical handicapping condition”. Some CWAs need to be accompanied, as they might go down on the wrong station, or might get lost in the process.




The LRT Orientation and Forum on Accessibility for PWDs and Safety Features in Compliance to BP 344 last July 20, 2011 at LRT2 Santolan Depot is really a powerful way to deal with these actual situations. Through this forum, our voices were heard.





Teachers and PWAs of Footsteps Learning Center Inc during the LRT Forum



Teaching our special children is not only enclosed inside the four corners of our classroom –we teach those functional academics and pre-vocational tasks and most especially we integrate them with our community. Our community is a bigger classroom where they can learn more and apply the things they learned inside their classroom. We, the people of this bigger classroom should be educated for us to understand the differences among us.




I believe that by having this kind of campaign, there would be more questions that can be answered positively. Our special learners are very much willing to move in the community that we enjoy but how can they do this without us? We should be their voices to make these things possible – to have a caring environment.




While composing this article, I found myself singing …




“Take me wherever you go
I wanna learn the things
That you know
Now that you made me believe
I want you to take me
'Cause I long to be able
To see the things
That you see
Know that
Whatever you do
I'll follow you”






May the lyrics of this song remind us that we should take part in building a better community for our special learners. It will not be difficult for us to work towards normalization as long as we’re together -- let’s fight for the rights of our children with autism!

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