The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons on the autism spectrum disorder. We envision a society where Filipinos on the spectrum become the best of their potentials -- self-reliant, independent, productive, socially-accepted citizens of an Autism-OK Philippines.

03 December 2012

PWAs on the Road

By DANG U. KOE, ASP Chair Emeritus

A trip to the mall or a short LRT ride is a simple activity for most people. But this is not so for individuals with autism and their families. This week’s column is a collaboration between Tiffany Tan and Mona Magno-Veluz, the immediate past and the current secretaries of the Autism Society Philippines (ASP). Read on as they share some tips for pedestrians with autism.
Students of Independent Learning Center practicing LRT rides

Any trip outside the comfort zone of a person with autism becomes an exercise in scheduling, risk management, and contingency planning for his parents and family members. Pedestrian foot traffic and public transportation offer many sights and sounds that can distract or overwhelm the senses of a young person with autism (PWA).

Many cases are reported yearly on PWAs being lost and unable to come home due to poor or non-existent language skills. These can be minimized by taking a few precautionary steps.

1. TAKE CHARGE. Parents and family members who embrace the full responsibility for the safety of their PWAs and who prepare for the possible scenarios, can find the perfect partner in traffic enforcers who are compassionate and knowledgeable of the condition that is autism.

2. GET A BUDDY. It is important that the PWA is always accompanied by a responsible adult, especially when facing the dangers of the streets. It is important that someone can make decisions when a PWA experiences something he or she is not familiar with.

3. LABEL. Write your name and contact number on the clothes of your non-verbal child, along with his name. Some use the classic army “dog tags” engraved with this information. Parents can also try GPS bracelets, which are becoming more available.

4. LET THE SHIRT TALK. Letting your PWA wear an ASP shirt whenever he goes out of the house can help traffic enforcers and other pedestrians be aware that he is a “special person,” who might need assistance and understanding.

5. EDUCATE. While the understanding of PWAs may vary, it is still important for parents to train them for independence and teach them how to cross the street; the proper use of the pedestrian crossing, street signs, and lights; the use of public transportation; and how to ask help from a traffic enforcer and other public servants when lost.

6. BE ACCESSIBLE. In case you are not traveling with your PWA, he should know how to contact you at all times. Be accessible to him. Frequent text exchanges between you and your child (or his companion) can help you keep track of his condition throughout the trip.

Traffic and law enforcers are important partners in our efforts to integrate individuals with autism into society. Their understanding of autism and the signs of the condition are critical to their ability to help PWAs who are lost or in distress. They should know how to consult with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the PDAO office of the local government, the barangay or the Autism Society of the Philippines, when they come across a lost PWA.

Curtis Molyneaux is an instructor at the Toronto Police College who teaches young police trainees about handling individuals with special needs. When dealing with individuals with autism who may be agitated, he advises, “You model the behavior you want them to display. You bring a deliberate, forced calm. There’s an almost exaggerated mellowness to your voice.”

Now is the perfect time to share these tips and suggestions with traffic and law enforcers. The Autism Society of the Philippines will conduct simultaneous seminars for the management and staff of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in various cities today, Dec. 3, in celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This year’s theme for the celebration is “removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.”

This article appeared online by Manila Bulletin on 02 December 2012.


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