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.

28 January 2013

Working towards true acceptance of Autism



By DANG UY-KOE, ASP Chair Emeritus

As the National Autism Consciousness Week celebration comes to a close, we cheer the many movers who educate young minds on what autism is, and who inspire Filipinos, the young and young-at-heart to be compassionate to persons with disabilities.

Mona Veluz, the national secretary of the Autism Society Philippines returns as this week’s Angel Talker.

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The National Autism Consciousness Week saw its 17th incarnation last week. The National Working Committee, composed of government and private agencies, and the Autism Society of the Philippines, didn’t only promote the advocacy but also reached out to the community-at-large. They created initiatives for all levels of society, from government agencies that provide basic services to private individuals, which generated visible results never before achieved.

Angels Walk 2013 drew the biggest number of angels (participants) this year. With 6,000 registered participants and many more who simply walked in to join the event, this year’s Walk has become a symbol of strength for our growing population. With the increase in persons with autism and the availability of more interventions in the country, families who live with the condition no longer feel detached from society. The fellowship of other parents and siblings of Persons with Autism (PWA) is a strong enabler in the sharing of knowledge and experience.

PLANTING THE SEED

Department of Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro likened autism advocacy programs like ASP’s “1Pangako,” to a seed planted in young minds.  Once planted, an idea is reinforced and spreads to the heart as a conviction.  This conviction manifests as a positive action.  The 1Pangako campaign, a drive to stop the use of the word “autistic” as a disability slur, embraces the philosophy that true change starts from one’s own personal determination to change.

The Quiz A academic contest is an annual competition that aims to test the knowledge of special students in Metro Manila schools in general subjects. This year, Quiz A opened its doors to mainstreamed youth. A new category tests neuro-typical students on their knowledge of what autism is. This move aspires to bring discussion of autism as a learning topic to elementary and high school classrooms.  It is our hope that the discussion of the scientific facts about autism in a classroom setting will lead to the abandonment of myths and stigma about the condition.

BRIDGING THE GAP

The government and the private sector are one in the call for responsiveness to the needs of individuals with autism. The ASP has been regularly conducting sensitivity seminars and coaching sessions to the service workers in various sectors. The DOTC, through Architect Rizal Morales, also conducted a seminar for the frontline workers in all airports and railroads last week to further improve policies and procedures in passenger handling. The MMDA also facilitated sensitivity training in multiple venues for traffic enforcers and deputized barangay workers.  In the private sector, the ASP proactively seeks to educate mall and merchant frontliners in being responsive to their customers with autism.

But the task is far from complete. The ASP, the private sector, government institutions and our friends from the disability sector, continue to partner to develop a long-term program of sensitivity enablement. These initiatives challenge us to seek more information on autism and to understand what it is; and discard the fallacies long-associated with this spectrum disorder. With information and knowledge come the realization that autism is truly not the tragedy -- ignorance is.

(To be a member of Autism Society Philippines, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and blogspot).


This article appeared in print and online by Manila Bulletin on 28 January 2013.

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