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Autism Society Philippines Shows Us How To Celebrate Differences!
PHOTO BY courtesy of Autism Society Philippines
  • Those of us involved in parent-led disability advocacy groups are a passionate bunch. I have observed first-hand how parents bring disconnected communities together — consolidating limited resources and maximizing impact towards the same vision — all for the sake of their children with disabilities.

    Why Angels Walk for Autism matters 

    The Angels Walk for Autism held last January 26, at the Mall of Asia Arena, was the highlight of the National Autism Consciousness Week 2020. It has become a celebration of how we appreciate human diversity and how the international, the public and the private sectors heed our call for acceptance, accommodation, and appreciation of persons on the spectrum, through relevant and tangible programs.

    Here are five reasons why the Angels Walk for Autism matters to families of children on the spectrum.

    1. We show strength in our numbers.

    The Angels Walk for Autism began in 2000 with only 200 participants. In 2020, the event attracted more than 26,000 participants nationwide — in Pasay and in provincial walks in Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Iligan, Iloilo, Isabela (Basilan), Lucena, Olongapo, and Tacloban.

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    With advocates and allies in the thousands, we shine a light on the growing population of those on the spectrum. Families are showing the world that we are a significant opinion block — all holding disposable income, consuming products and services, and voting in elections. We are making autism-inclusion a social and business imperative.

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    2. Society is educated on autism.

    Autism is a complex and lifelong developmental exceptionality, challenging one’s ability to communicate, socialize, and adapt to the world. This spectrum condition manifests uniquely in each person. It is a variation of the human condition affecting approximately 1.2 million Filipinos.

    The difficulty to understand this “invisible disability” propels the ASP to let the society to see the autism spectrum in the open, with the community showing their genuine selves, without fear of judgment. 

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    3. Government leaders are driven to act.

    Holding our public servants accountable for responsive programs and projects is key to bringing more services closer to the most vulnerable. President Rodrigo Duterte shared, “I hope that this year’s events will serve as a huge step towards ensuring that persons living with autism will have meaningful, productive and dignified lives.”

    Autism Society Philippines Rodrigo Duterte
    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's message has set the cadence for the various agencies and local government units supporting the autism community.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Autism Society Philippines
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    4. Those on the spectrum show off what they can do.

    In the grand Angels Walk for Autism tradition, performers on the spectrum from all over the country were featured on stage. Achievements of Canada-based concert pianist Ron Adea and international IT competition winner from Valenzuela Keith Ignacio were recognized through the ASP Autism Angel Achievement Awards. 

    With an arena filled with thousands, the community did the biggest the “Tala” dance challenge yet (watch it here)— with steps simplified for the mobility and coordination levels of all! Front and center in this walk warm-up were taipan Hans Sy, Sen. Koko Pimentel, and Miss World Philippines 2019 Michelle Dee. Did I mention we love fun?

    5. More allies are inspired to help.

    This vibrant community event celebrates those who are making an impact on Filipinos of the autism spectrum simply through what they do every day — and fueling more to join in!
    Michelle Dee, ASP’s first Goodwill Ambassador, lent her sparkle to a new ASP anti-bullying video called “Kakaiba.” She calls on all to celebrate differences, “Tanggapin, unawain at bigyang-halaga po natin ang mga taong may kapansanan.”

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    John and Harvey Chua, the creatives behind the “Photography with a Difference” advocacy, received the Hans T. Sy Leadership Award for Inclusion and Welfare, ASP’s highest recognition of celebrating exemplary leadership, advancing ASP’s vision of acceptance, accommodation, and appreciation of persons with autism.

    Pancake House and Manulife Business Processing Services brought home the ASP Autism Works Partners of the Year for innovative practices in autism-inclusive employment.

    Mona Magno-Veluz serves as the national president of the Autism Society Philippines. She is a mom to three kids with her eldest Carl on the autism spectrum. Her passion propels her to write and talk publicly about disability inclusion and PWD empowerment. Find her on Twitter @mightymagulang.

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