Autism Angels Now Walk outside Metro Manila

Article excerpt

The term “Autism Angel” was adopted by the Autism Society Philippines (ASP) to refer not only to individuals with autism, but also to advocates and supporters. After all, it takes an angel to embrace a child with autism.Through walks for autism, ASP gathers the numbers to attract attention on the following points:• 1 in 110 children is now being diagnosed with autism (source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network). In the Philippines, the estimate is at least 600,000 Filipino families dealing with autism. • Statistics show that in developing countries, only five percent of persons with disabilities (PWD) are diagnosed properly, with only two percent receiving interventions. The same is true in the Philippines where limited programs and services are highly concentrated in Metro Manila. We have to address the needs of Filipinos living with autism, especially in the provinces. • There is still social stigma attached to families dealing with autism. Persons with autism, like other PWDs, are still objects of ridicule and discrimination. The general public needs to be educated to understand and show compassion to PWAs. After all, autism is not a tragedy, ignorance is the tragedy.ANGEL WINGS UNFOLDDuring its first decade, ASP started a small-scale Autism Walk, with only about less than a hundred participating. Then in 2007, the first large-scale walk was held at the grounds of Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City. It gathered 2,000 members and supporters which sparked the much needed public attention with full media coverage.In 2008, Angels Walk for Autism in Quezon City Memorial Circle gathered 3,500 with major TV networks covering the event. This was outdone again in 2009, with over 4,000 persons with autism (PWA), their families and friends, professionals, institutions as well as government and non-government agencies flocking together at the SM Mall of Asia.This year, at least 5,000 angels are expected to descend again at the SM Mall of Asia on Jan. 24. This is open to the public with no registration fees. All we require: walkers with angelic hearts for people with autism. Attendees will also be treated to live performances by PWAs showcasing their singing and dancing abilities starting at 9 a.m.MORE ANGEL SIGHTINGSHark! Autism Angels now walk even outside of Metro Manila!ASP Cebu chapter jump-started the Walk last Jan. 10, at the SM City Cebu. More than 200 family members, professionals and supporters participated. They walked around the mall clad in now-familiar green shirts, wearing the green angels4autism baller bands, waving green balloons and placards, and led by mascots provided by sponsors. The Cebuano angels were chanting “One with Autism!”ASP Lucena Chapter scheduled their own Angels Walk yesterday, Jan. 17 at SM City Lucena. Angels Walk of ASP Iloilo and Davao Chapters will be simultaneous with that of Metro Manila on Jan. 24; where else but in SM City Iloilo and SM Davao, respectively.Next year, more angel wings will unfurl in the different parts of our country. This is a testament of autism going beyond borders.NATIONAL AUTISM CONSCIOUSNESS WEEKAngels Walk for Autism now serves as the highlight during our annual national Autism Consciousness Week celebrations.This celebration was mandated in 1996 by former President Fidel V. Ramos. Presidential Proclamation No. 711 or Autism Consciousness Week aims to promote awareness on autism and the provision of appropriate social services to persons with autism. And so every third week of January, ASP spearheads the celebration.The theme for this year’s celebration, “Giant Leaps….Transcending Boundaries” reflects ASP’s unprecedented growth for the past 21 years. The theme also renews ASP’s commitment to continue expanding programs and services to reach the far flung areas of the country where services are badly needed. …