MAKING SOCIETY COMPASSIONATE TO PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
Last week, two groups have launched a photo and an art exhibit not only to benefit the people in the autism spectrum, but also to bring to public attention the value of having a compassionate society for people with special needs.
Likewise, the event organizers’ collective aim is to heighten public awareness that people with autism also have capabilities and can become productive members of society if accorded with the right intervention.
Many groups have and continue to advocate an inclusive society where people with special needs will be given more opportunity to at least be self-reliant but the process has been painstakingly slow.
Take for instance, the non-allocation of funds for special education in the 2023 budget of the Department of Education, at a time when nations around the world are moving in a direction where people with special needs are empowered and their skills and potentials enhanced through special education and training done by specialists.
The Philippines must work harder to help realize this advocacy of groups whose members comprise parents and guardians of those in the autism spectrum.
There is a lot that the Philippines lacks before this nation can attain an autism-OK society. Among these are lack of experts such as psychologists, special education teachers, and specialists; schools that cater to the needs of people with autism, planning by policymakers, business establishments willing to take under their wings those who are capable of working, and a society still unprepared to handle and care for people in the autism spectrum.
In special education for instance, the Cordillera has only one government-run special education center that caters to both the gifted and those with special needs. The formal education that those in the latter can avail of, however, is limited to elementary education.
Those who finished elementary education have the option to enroll in high school or in short term classes which suit their interests, such as arts, craft, or sports, but in a private institution.
But the sad fact is many cannot afford to send them to regular private educational institutions. As a result, some are reenrolled in their former school or are left to do tasks at home. Because of these limitations, their chances of having specialized instruction that could harness their capabilities as individuals are curtailed.
In the pipeline is the construction of a SPED high school. We hope this will be fast-tracked so that those who are able can ascend to a higher level of academic instruction.
We understand the government has a lot on its plate in terms of identifying priorities for definitely, everything and everyone are priority, but sectors that have long been set aside deserve more.
This is also an opportune time for institutions such as churches and companies to reach out to this sector by hiring them based on their capabilities or fund programs and projects for the sector.
Hopefully, this will become exponential so more can be reached.
We laud groups, institutions, and individuals who tirelessly volunteer their time and resources advocating the causes of persons with special needs such as those in the autism spectrum.
May you not falter and may you have more people join your cause so that we may finally achieve an autism-OK Philippines.