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.

09 February 2019

At the Cusp of ASP's Third Decade

As the Autism Society Philippines breaches its historic third decade, the national leadership was challenged to take our advocacy to the next level.  ASP has pondered on the traditional view of our organization as a mere family support group or a recipient of charity; and has chosen to redefine itself.  We embraced our strength, our numbers and our reach to impact policy and to develop programs that will directly benefit children and adults with autism.  All this stands true to our vision of creating a society where Filipinos with autism become the best of their potentials -- self-reliant, independent, productive and socially-accepted members of an Autism OK-Philippines.

Top Row L-R Evelyn Go, Helen Cheng, Dang Koe, Mona Veluz, Ces Sica,Chrissy Roa
Bottom Row L-R Grace Adviento, Joy Ofrecia, Peng So, Carmel Almendrala, Marivic Ramos
Here are the highlights of the accomplishments of ASP in the last five years leading up to the 30th anniversary of the ASP's foundation.

1  MEMBERSHIP.  Our ranks have grown from the original 11 mothers in 1989 to approximately 13,000 members today, composed of persons with autism, parents, family members, professionals and supporters. The number of active ASP members jumped 34 percent between 2015 and 2018.  Notably, we are seeing an increase in number of persons with autism who are engaging in the ASP advocacy -- from less than 1 percent in 2010 to 6 percent of our membership base by the end of 2018.

2  CHAPTERS AND CIRCLES. From 70 chapters in 2015, the ASP is now 97 chapters strong, validating our strength in the grassroots.  In 2018, we have clustered the chapters into four groups: Metro Manila-Rizal, North Luzon, South Luzon and Visayas-Mindanao -- each headed by a Cluster Head.  This governance system allows chapters to be able to connect, get guidance and access the same tools and opportunities wherever they are in the country.

The ASP Self-Advocacy Circle was formed in 2018 to bring the voices of persons with autism together, as a positive force of change in Philippine society.  The group is composed of adults with autism.  The first set of officers elected are: Ian Lopez (President), Carl Veluz (Vice President, External), Paul Matthew Somera (Vice President, Internal) and Pia Cabanero (Vice President, Communications)

3  PROGRAMS AND PARTNERSHIPS.  Monthly parent training, sensitivity training for the general public and family support group sessions have been the cornerstone of ASP's service to the community for decades -- the new programs outlined below have taken us beyond our original scope. Many programs and projects, after being piloted on a limited scale, have grown to a national level.

3.1 ASP Angels Walk for Autism is an annual advocacy event that has been held since 2007. It has grown from 200 to 24,000 registered participants in 2018.  Aside from Metro Manila, the Angels Walk for Autism has been held in 23 other cities: Bacolod (Negros Occidental), Baguio (Benguet), Cagayan de Oro (Misamis Oriental), Cebu (Cebu), Dagupan (Pangasinan), Davao (Davao del Sur), Dipolog (Zamboanga del Norte), Dumaguete (Negros Oriental), General Santos (South Cotabato), Iloilo (Iloilo), Kalibo (Aklan), Legaspi (Albay), Lucena (Quezon), Naga (Camarines Sur), Ormoc (Leyte), Puerto Princesa (Palawan), Roxas (Capiz), San Fernando (La Union), Tacloban (Leyte), Tagbilaran (Bohol), Valenzuela (Metro Manila), Virac (Catanduanes), Zamboanga (Zamboanga del Sur). Partners: SM Cares, SM Supermalls, National Council on Disability Affair (NCDA), Government Agencies, Provincial Governments, LGUs, Schools and Universities, Private Sector.

3.2 ASP 1Pangako started out in 2012 as a simple call for kindness over social media, hoping to end to discrimination, ridicule and bullying of persons with autism.  In 2016, ASP launched the ASP 1Bansa 1Pangako campaign, during the National Autism Consciousness Week, raising awareness amongst public and private entities to make the promise towards an inclusive society.  Partners: NCDA, Government Agencies, Provincial Governments, LGUs, Schools and Universities, Private Sector.

3.3 ASP Autism Works aims to build an Autism-OK Philippines by creating genuine, sustainable economic empowerment opportunities in compassionate workplaces nationwide. First launched in 2016 as an employment initiative, ASP's CBR-inspired model empowers PWAs and their families towards success at work and guides the enterprise towards a sustainable process of assimilating persons with autism into the workforce. Team members and leaders are given the necessary sensitivity training to guide them through the PWA employee’s tenure.

Aside from work placement, the program provides other productive opportunities:
  • ASP AutisMALL Pilipinas is a virtual market place for products and services by and for persons with autism, managed by the Autism Society Philippines. This is a laboratory for budding entrepreneurs to bring their products to market. Visit: https://shopee.ph/autismphils
  • ASP Employability Training bridges skills of PWAs to a level required by industry through coaching and hard skills training.  Partners: Accenture (NCR), A Child's DREAM (Benguet), Autism Resource Center (Laguna), Communicare (NCR), Harvest of Hope (Quezon), Hopewell School (Cavite), ILLC (NCR), The Learning Center (NCR), Kite String Developmental Center (Cebu), RICAFI (Davao) and Workabilities (Iloilo)
  • ASP Project ChocolatA (pronounced cho-ko-lat-'ey) is a sheltered workshop where persons with autism are trained in making chocolate truffles.  The sales of these products sustain the salaries of the PWA staff. Partners: Leonard Cheshire Disability Philippines Foundation, Henkel Philippines
  • ASP Project GourmA (pronounced gur-'mey) showcases the abilities of individuals with autism in the food and restaurant industry, through dining experiences. Partners: College of Saint Benilde, Gourmet Gypsy
3.4 ASP HOMEpowerment offers therapy to children with autism and of parent training from indigent families. The program is typically composed of occupational, speech and non-traditional therapy sessions. Parents also receive training on how to continue their child's program, empowering them with the knowledge and skills to confidently care for their child with autism.  Partners: Kiehl's Philippines, Quality Life Discoveries

3.5 ASP Autism Family Prayer Jamboree assembles families from ASP chapters nationwide for World Autism Awareness Day. Through heartfelt songs and recitations, persons on the spectrum and families who live and love with autism are joined in the empowering might of prayer, during the annual Autism Family Prayer Jamboree. The climax is the ceremonial lighting of the iconic Quezon Memorial Circle in blue light – in unity with many countries around the world that light up monuments and in the name of autism awareness. Partner: NCDA, LGU of Quezon City

3.6 ASP Angel Volunteer Corps is the volunteer arm of the society with approximately 1,000 registered members. The society conducts monthly ASP New Member and Volunteer Orientations to ensure member and volunteers are calibrated on our vision and values.

4  AWARDS AND NETWORKS.  The Autism Society Philippines was among the pioneer members of the ASEAN Autism Network, which was established in December 2010 in Bangkok.  ASP Chair Emeritus Dang Koe served as AAN's Chair from 2016 to 2018.  Her service earned her the ASEAN Prize in 2018 for her work in improving the lives of people with autism and her role in uniting the various member countries under one vision, one identity and one community.  The Autism Society Philippine received the Gat Apolinario Mabini Award as Outstanding Disability Advocacy Group in 2015. Partner: Asia-Pacific Development Center for Disability.

5  PUBLIC POLICY. The Autism Society Philippines engaged the Philippine Congress and the Philippine Senate in defining the country's plan in addressing the needs of Filipinos with autism and their families.  We worked in technical working committees to harmonize various bills to create the National Autism Care Plan Bill, which we intend to revive when the next Congress resumes.  We also supported the Speech Language Pathology Act, which serves to professionalize a previously unregulated discipline. The ASP is among the key movers contributing to the ASEAN Autism Mapping Project -- the first step towards the development of policies sensitive to the needs of the autism community in the Southeast Asian region. Partners: ASEAN Autism Network, Philippine Academy of Occupational Therapists, Philippine Association of Speech Pathologists, Philippine Society of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics, AKBAYAN.

May the next years bring continued strength to the ASP's advocacy and bring more partners to feed wind to our wings. To God be the glory!


ASP Board of Trustees 2017-2018
Mona Magno-Veluz (President, Trustee)
Chrissy Roa (Vice-President, Trustee)
Cecile Sicam (Secretary, Trustee)
Evelyn Go (Treasurer, Trustee)
Helen Cheng (Auditor, Trustee)
Grace Adviento (Trustee)
Carmel Almendrala (Trustee)
Joy Ofrecia (Trustee)
Marivic Ramos (Trustee)
Peng So (Trustee)
Dang Koe (Chair Emeritus)

About the contributor. Mona Magno-Veluz served as the National President of the Autism Society Philippines for two terms from 2015-2016 and 2017-2018. She received degrees in Business Administration, Applied Economics and Strategic Marketing from the University of the Philippines Diliman, University of Asia and the Pacific and the London School of Business. Drawing from her experience as a corporate communications and recruitment professional, she helped grow the national advocacy initiatives such as the 1Pangako, ASP Angel Corps, A-OK Philippines campaigns and the widely-successful ASP Autism Works economic empowerment initiative. She speaks publicly on disability advocacy, leadership, and genealogy. Mona is a wife and a mom to three kids. Her eldest, Carl, is an adult on the spectrum who, having finished an architectural short course, is active in the community, volunteering, and working on his entrepreneurial ventures.

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