The world is different now as it was decades ago, today people living with Autism gets more support from many who have increase understanding and acceptance of them. Various groups whose main goal is to help improve the lives of people and families living with autism abound.
Autism is a complex and lifelong developmental exceptionality, challenging an individual’s ability to communicate, socialize and adapt to the world around him. This spectrum condition manifests uniquely in different persons and may or may not be coupled with sensory and intellectual disabilities. It is a variation of the human condition affecting approximately 1.2 million Filipinos.
This year, the Autism Society of the Philippines (ASP), together with SM Cares, the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of SM Prime Holdings, hold the annual Angels Walk for Autism last January 26, 2020 at the Mall of Asia Arena, as the closing ceremony to the Philippine National Autism Consciousness Week.
“The Angels Walk for Autism began in 2007 as awareness-raising with only 200 people,” said Mona Magno-Veluz, ASP National President. “Now, with more than 20,000 registered participants, the event has become a celebration of how far we have come in appreciating human diversity and how the international, the public and the private sectors are heeding our call for acceptance, accommodation and appreciation of persons on the spectrum through relevant, tangible programs.”
During the event, Engr. Bien Mateo, SVP for Mall Operations and Program Director of SM Cares Program on PWD’s shared, “SM Supermalls is happy to support ASP in the Angels Walk for Autism, and to help nurture an active autism advocacy ecosystem all over the country.” It was pointed out that SM was also hosting, simultaneously, smaller Angels Walks for Autism in other malls all over the country – such as Angeles, Bacolod, Cebu, Davao, Lagro, Lucena and Olongapo.
Before the program, ASP passed around boxes for cash donations that will be donated to the efforts of the SM Foundation Inc towards providing needed emergency healthcare to evacuees of the Taal Volcano eruption. The Provinces of Batangas, Cavite, Laguna are home to several of ASP’s 98 chapters.
This year’s Angels Walk for Autism showcased the talents of individuals on the autism spectrum with a pre-walk show and recognizes visionary contributions of our growing community of advocates. With thousands of participants, the community attempted the biggest the “Tala” dance challenge yet and making SM’s Mr. Hans Sy and Senator Koko Pimentel dance to the craze with the steps simplified for the mobility or coordination levels of all!
Ms. World Philippines 2019 Michelle Dee was also honored as the ASP’s first Goodwill Ambassador. She is joined young men from across the autism spectrum in the new advocacy video called “Kakaiba”. She calls on all to celebrate differences. “Tanggapin, unawain at bigyang-halaga po natin ang mga taong may kapansanan,” Michelle said.
The Hans T. Sy Leadership Award for Inclusion and Welfare, the ASP’s highest recognition, celebrating exemplary leadership that has significant and positive impact on advancing ASP’s vision of acceptance, accommodation and appreciation of persons with autism in an Autism-OK Philippines, was bestowed to its beloved John and Harvey Chua, the creative giants behind the Photography with a Difference advocacy.
Pancake House and Manulife Business Processing Services were recognized for innovative practices in autism-inclusive employment and brought home the ASP Autism Works Partners of the Year. The ASP Autism Angel Achievement Awards were presented to Ron Adea (Performing Arts) and Keith Ignacio (Information Technology).
After the walk, the ASP hold its very first inter-city ASP Authletics Tournament at the SM Mall of Asia Music Hall. The ASP AUthletics is a nationwide initiative on wellness through movement; and competitive athlete development for individuals on the autism spectrum. The program promotes well-being, friendship, and achievement among families and individuals who live on the spectrum.