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  • Autism In The Workplace: "They Were Hired Because Of Their Abilities, Not Out Of Charity"

    Restaurants and establishments in the Philippines have partnered with Autism Society Philippines since 2016 to push for a more inclusive workplace
    by Riyalyn Grace Pasimio .
Autism In The Workplace: "They Were Hired Because Of Their Abilities, Not Out Of Charity"
  • A recent viral story of a diner who learned his wait staff is on the Autism Spectrum Disorder made social media rounds recently which pushed a six-year-old campaign for an inclusive workplace to the spotlight. 

    In 2016, Autism Society Philippines launched the project “Autism Works”. Autism Works provides employment opportunities to qualified job seekers in selected cities in the Philippines--inclusive employment for individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Currently, ASP Autism Works has 300 placements in 11 provinces in the Philippines. This included the A-OK campaign in the food industry.

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    Smart Parenting got the chance to talk to Ms. Mona Magno-Veluz, Country Manager of Autism Works, Autism Society Philippines, to share the latest updates about the campaign. 

    Autism Works: A-OK Philippines Campaign

    The “Mom” of the campaign said “ASP Autism Works started in 2016, and that time it was difficult to get off the ground because employers (and even our own community) were hesitant.”

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    “SM Markets (Savemore, Hypermarket) was the first one to take a chance with us,” Mona Magno-Veluz added. Since then, ASP Autism Works has placed individuals in different industries such as food, retail, BPO, real estate, knowledge industries and multinational companies. 

    'We assess job seekers’ job readiness. For example, the application must be done by the individual himself. They should send the e-mail application and must express their interest in work.' -Mona Magno-Veluz, country manager of Autism Works, Autism Society of the Philippines

    Some of the jobs offered are data annotation, data analysis, and documentation specialists. They are still employed up to this day in the said positions, and only halted during the pandemic. Their employment resumed again in late 2022. 

    In the food industry, Mona Magno-Veluz fondly remembered the pilot run of the partnership with Pancake House, “We started in 2019, and placed five individuals in five different branches of Pancake House: Magallanes, Rockwell, Vertis North, Burgos Circle, Harbour Square.” (Eds: The main photo of this article is from 2019.)

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    Inclusive employment

    The Autism Works Campaign is not just a simple project to let the individuals on the autism spectrum experience part-time work. They are hired with a regular position, with the same job as other employees, as well as the same pay and benefits. 

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    “Yes, there are certain accommodations for this campaign, but we also acknowledge that there are certain expectations in the workplace,” Mona Veluz-Magno shared. 

    She shared that to ensure the protection of the job seekers, as well as the partner establishments, they worked with the University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations (UP SOLAIR). Together they created a well-crafted process from the application up to on-boarding and performance management. 

    RELATED: This Millennial Opened a Cafe to Raise Autism Awareness

    “We assess job seekers’ job readiness. For example, the application must be done by the individual himself. They should send the e-mail application and must express their interest in work,” she said.

    ASP then interviews them as well as their family to ensure they have support during this endeavor. They also help with the preparation of their resume, how to do interviews and how to give and receive feedback. ASP also determines job seekers’ occupational interest - if they are more inclined in the food industry, or they prefer to work with computers. 


    Aside from these processes, ASP assesses companies and establishments before becoming partners. They provide training for the employees on the establishment, as well as performance management for managers on how to evaluate individuals on the autism spectrum. 

    RELATED: ‘My Son Maybe Different, But It’s Never A Disability’: Mom Shares Her Son's Autism Journey

    During employment, ASP provides life coaching for them to make sure they have the support they need. 
    Mona Magno-Veluz shared, “The A-OK Philippines campaign reflects the ASP’s aspiration to build a nation that will accept, accommodate and appreciate Filipinos on the spectrum for how they are—not how people want them to be.”

    Veluz shared on her Instagram account after the viral story: "Someone suggested that employers should have a poster or sign that pre-apologizes: 'I have autism. Please be patient'. Why do we have to infringe on the workers rights by depriving the them self-disclosure of their condition?"


    She added, "They were hired because of their abilities, not out of charity. Employers should not have to apologize to their customers for that."

    Her message to everyone, “We don’t have to know about Autism before we can be kind and compassionate about others.” And we think that is true. Kindness, compassion and empathy is always free, so give it away!

    To know more about Autism Works, more details are posted in their Facebook page or send them an email at autismphils@gmail.com. Other endeavors and activities of the Autism Society Philippines can be seen in their website and social media.

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