TWO PERSONS with autism in Davao City have been employed by SM Retail, Inc., one each at an SM Savemore and SM Supermarket branch, and advocates are hopeful that this small number will soon grow. Imelda E. Rendon, executive director of the Rainbow Intervention Center for Autism Foundation Inc. (RICAFI), said they are already discussing opportunities with a clothing retail company and a fastfood chain. “We already have talks with them pero hindi pa lang nag (but it still has not) pushed through, hopefully this year,” Ms. Rendon told media in a forum last week, the National Autism Consciousness Week. “They are good in arranging the stocks and entertaining the customers who are looking for an item because these children are good at memorizing,” she said. Febe A. Matthews of the Autism Society of the Philippines-Davao Chapter said they are also campaigning for government agencies to hire adults with autism as they are capable of running errands and other tasks. “This is as long as the people surrounding them can also understand them,” Ms. Matthews said. ASP-Davao has a program called Autism Works career placement wherein they partnered with establishments.
The two groups are also pushing the government and the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), the biggest public hospital in Mindanao, to set up a program that will train more developmental pediatricians. “In Davao City, there are only three developmental pediatricians and we parents have difficulty getting an appointment with them. It takes us one year to get that appointment and if we get the appointment, the charge is very expensive,” Ms. Matthews said, noting that children with autism ideally need an assessment twice a year. Developmental pediatricians, particularly those with a subspecialty in the field, diagnose and identify a whole range of developmental and behavioral differences, such as the difference between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and high functioning autism. “We are appealing to the government and SPMC to train developmental doctors or pediatricians where parents can go, particularly for those parents who can’t afford (the high fees). It’s only the developmental doctors that can diagnose,” she said. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how a person acts and interacts with others, communicates, and learns. — Maya M. Padillo