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.

27 August 2013

"Autists" at Work

PWA Michael Almendrala in Philippine
Information Agency writing records
By: Dang U. Koe, ASP Chair Emeritus

Vocation becomes a crucial discussion for a family living with autism once an individual on the spectrum reaches an age when skills for independent living are reasonably expected. The transition from school to the workplace is often the most critical for individuals on the spectrum, as it may define their livelihood prospects.

Mona Magno-Veluz, the ASP National Secretary, gives us a preview of best practices in employing individuals with autism and peeks into practical tips on how you can prepare your child with autism for a future career today.


President Aquino signed into law Republic Act 10524 (An Act Expanding the Positions Reserved for Persons with Disability) in May 2013 which makes it mandatory for government agencies and government-owned corporations to reserve one percent of their workforce for disabled persons. The autism community welcomes this development, hoping that it will inspire the private sector to open their doors to more PWA workers.

Many trailblazing companies are not only providing autism-friendly products and services; but have also reached out to the autism community and embraced the true meaning of awareness, acceptance and inclusion, through employment programs which benefit adults with autism.

- Mann Hann is a chain of 14 restaurants including its sister companies, the Mann Yann and Mannang Restaurants. In 2006, the Mann Hann group of restaurants opened its doors to an individual with autism as an assistant bartender. Sensitivity training was conducted on the staff to help create a supportive work environment as well. For their compassionate corporate culture, Mann Hann was conferred the honor "Employer of the Year" at the 2011 Apolinario Mabini Awards -- a recognition bestowed on institutions and individuals with noteworthy contributions to the disability community.

- SAP, the German software company. has recognized the unique talents of PWAs for information technology. The company has projected that by 2020, one percent of their global workforce of 65,000 would be people with autism. Six PWAs are currently employed in their Bangalore office as software testers.

- Unilab Foundation has had a long history of advocacy in holistic health. In 2013, they signed a partnership agreement with multiple special schools to embark on an initiative to design a sustainable workforce inclusion program for individuals with autism and Down Syndrome.

The autism community applauds these companies and continues to work with the private sector to create more programs, which can be scaled and replicated.


Mr. Archie David and ILLC students
Preparing our adolescents with autism for employment is a process that can take years. The earlier a family becomes aware of the PWA's strengths and weaknesses as a worker, the easier it is for the family and their support team to work on long-term preparation. The family's aspirations and the PWA's abilities will define the educational and training goals, which are articulated in a transition program.

- Include work skills training in the IEP as soon as possible. Vocational, work, community, communication, and self-care skills that will enhance the individual’s ability to enter the workforce should be given importance.

- Take all possible opportunities to immerse the adolescent in the workplace or a simulation of the workplace. Many schools provide opportunities to learn various vocations in an effort to expose PWAs to various work environs. This helps the child develop skills important to the workplace, as well as the tolerance for what may, in ordinary circumstances, give them discomfort or distress.

- Practice work-appropriate behavior. Interaction with future work peers can be enhanced by discussing and practising desirable behaviors. For individuals on the spectrum, it is important to be explicit on the nuances between acceptable behavior at school versus the workplace.

- Provide parental support and positivity. A study in the Netherlands reveal that IQ is NOT the main driver of work success in individuals on the spectrum. Many successful adults with autism, like Temple Grandin, credit a great deal of their success to the unconditional support they received from their parents and loved ones. A support system that breeds emotional strength is the key to a PWA's work success.


Dr. Abelardo Apollo David or "Teacher Archie," recipient of the prestigious The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) in 2012 and Executive Director Independent Living Learning Centre will be moderating a panel discussion on "Employment and Livelihood for Adults on the Spectrum” at the 13th Philippine National Autism Conference. Themed “Hope for ‘A’ Nation,” the confab will tackle issues and experiences relevant to an autism community that is striving for acceptance and inclusion in Philippine mainstream society.

The event is designed to provide information on developments relevant to allied medical professionals, social servants and community workers who work with autism. Most importantly, the event was created for the growing community of parents, family members and individuals on the autism spectrum who are seeking answers, quality support and fellowship. For more details, visit

This article appeared on 26 August 2013 in the print and on-line versions of Manila Bulletin's "Angels Talk" under the by-line of Dang U. Koe, ASP Chair Emeritus.


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