The Filipino attitude towards Autism Spectrum Disorder

Our radio show “the PWDPhil Hour” has had several guests and calls from listeners, many of them sharing their experiences through our segment #myPWDstory which is also available to them online through our Facebook page (http://facebook.com/PWDPhil)

One of the most eye-opening incidents on the show was when we were airing yesterday (Sept 24, 2017), one of our texters asked the question “… ang taong nasiraan ng ulo aksep po ba yan sa PWD autism din po ba yan…?” To me this question raised two points: One, is that the general attitude about mental disorders, the average Filipino will just chalk it up to “sira ulo” and all the other negative stereotypes that go with the label.

And two, that mental disorders are not considered as a medical condition by the average Filipino. Many Pinoys believe that mental disorders are conditions that the sufferers can just wake up one Jday and snap out of it. It is this belief that make the life of mental disorder sufferers and people with autism very difficult and almost impossible to endure.

Opportunities for school and work often available to non-disabled children are practically non-existent for children with autism. Most of the time they are left to the care of institutions, individuals and relatives, oftentimes considered a burden to both the state and the primary caretakers. We at the Organization for Pinoys with Disabilities Inc. do not believe this. Children with autism deserve treatment and understanding because they are, above all, children too, autism or not.

Filipinos must realize that “crazy people” are not that way by choice. This is the same with sufferers of autism. It is not something they have chosen to become or a result of bad parenting. It may be genetic but it may also be negligence on the part of the mother during her pregnancy. Those who have been known to have been heavily drinking, smoking or using recreational drugs during pregnancy are said to have offspring suffering from autism, cerebral palsy and other birth-borne conditions. During one of our radio shows, a gynecologist named Dr. Rebecca Singson reiterated the need for pregnant mothers to watch what they eat and stick to organic food, consciously avoiding processed food like hotdogs, cakes and the like as these can trigger a plethora of medical conditions that might adversely affect both mother and child.

Please do tune in to our radio program “the PWDPhil Hour” for more information on how you can help prevent such conditions for your child. If you are already the caregiver of a person with disabilities, do tune in and join the conversation so we can get you the help you need by guesting doctors, audiologists, psychiatrists and even developmental pediatricians. The PWDPhil Hour airs every Saturday and Sunday. 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm over DZRB 738 KHz AM Radyo Pilipinas 1.

Abby Asistio: Strength in Adversity

I first met Abby Asistio in a Novuhair event in Quezon City. At that time I ask myself, what was her problem, not having hair? I didn’t think it was a big deal. I figured, she’s lucky she isn’t disabled.

But I also learned from our parish priest that it is not right to compare your troubles with that of other people. Jollibee food may not be a dream for many of us who work in the city, but when I went to Romblon, I met people  whose kids can only only dream of Chickenjoy because there isn’t any in their town. And there is a huge part of our population who have yet to see the inside of a mall.

Which brings me back to Abby Asistio. She has a condition known as Alopecia, which is basically a disorder within her immune system which causes progressive hair loss. She has had it since she was a little girl and has lived with a lot of cruel comments, potshots and even ridicule from other people, even friends and family. As many would say, ‘kalbo lang daw ang nagpapatawa.’ Believe me, there isn’t anything funny about her condition.

Abby Asistio still pursued a singing career and worked hard to make some of her dreams come true. And even became a celebrity endorser for a hair growth product which seems to work well for her. Now with hair her confidence has grown and she has now accomplished a lot more than what she set out to do.

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It may be wrong for us to compare our troubles with others but it’s not a bad idea to learn from how other people overcame their troubles to live a life they’ve always wanted. Despite our differences in the nature of our struggles, there are ways to overcome and it always begins with acceptance. Once you have accepted your situation, you will be better equipped to formulate a more effective strategy to overcome your disabilities.

One of our friends in the community stands out as my personal beacon of inspiration when it comes to overcoming obstacles and that’s Kcat Yarza. She has been in and out of the hospital and is a sufferer of Neurofibromatosis. However the difficulty she is always always smiling and keeps counting her victories rather than her failures. Kcat and Abby are two of the bravest persons I’ve ever known and it would not be a bad idea to learn from them.

City Mall Anabu: PWD-friendly Mall

I’ve recently visited City Mall Anabu and I have discovered that it must be one of the most PWD-friendly malls in Cavite or anywhere south of Manila.  Many of our Pinoys with Disabilities are prevented from going around, especially wheelchair users, because of the unavailability of proper wheelchair ramps and the failure of mall owners to eliminate small steps which prevents, even endangers, the wheelchair user from navigating throughout the mall without the need for an assistant. Even the most sophisticated malls are not without such hindrances.

From image borrowed from http://saansacavite.com

The National Building Code of the Philippines states that the walkways must have plants or railings that line a walkway that goes all the way to the end. The plants and the railings are necessary to guide white cane users (the blind or low vision) as to where the walkway ends and to indicate that they are traveling in a straight line. As for wheelchair users, the National Building Code is clear, the width of a walkway or the door to a lavatory designed for a PWD should be no less than 1.2 meters.

From image borrowed from http://saansacavite.com

Also the National Building Code imposes that a specially extra wide parking slot be dedicated for the use of the PWD. There should be one out of every 50 slots in every mall, office, hotel or residential building.

From image borrowed from http://saansacavite.com

I want to mention that the Manila Ocean Park has no parking slot for a PWD. Their management assumes that the PWD has a driver and would require PWDs to park in the farther parking lot rather than in the lot behind the main building where the hotel guests are parked. I hope they change this soon.

In searching for a mall, our team has come across the City Mall in Anabu, Cavite as what could be one of the best malls that is friendliest to the PWD. Our  team visited the place while I took the pictures but my phone went into reset because of what seemed like a virus attack, and I lost all the photos. Thank goodness for www.saansacavite.com and Chase Gorospe.

After a long search, City Mall in Anabu has proven to be the most PWD-friendly of them all. We are not declaring this just because we had an event or was sponsored. In fact, our team went here on our time and money as part of our research to inform you, our PWD readers where to go to best enjoy your shopping time. City Mall made it to the top of our list for the following reasons:

Parking

City Mall is one large, spread-out mall and parking is so conveniently located in and around the mall where large windows will allow you to easily see your vehicle and has PWD parking that allows easy access getting and out of your car or van. Even for the non-disabled, parking was very easy to find there was always an entrance near the mall.

Wheelchair-friendly

City Mall deserves an award as the most wheelchair-friendly mall our team has ever visited. From the car to the food court, the activity center and the grocery, there are no bumps and humps that will impede the ability of the wheelchair user from going around on his own without the assistance of a non-disabled. An added bonus was that City Mall has wide entrance and exit doors with shallow and smoothened curb ramps for easier access. At both the entrance of the mall and at the entrance of the Save More grocery, there are wheelchairs that a senior citizen or PWD can borrow during their visit.

From image borrowed from http://saansacavite.com

Clean restrooms

Of all the malls, City Mall has  the cleanest toilets! It was a wonderful surprise to see a community mall with a restroom so clean they can rival Rockwell’s Power Plant Mall. Even the one for the non-disabled, all stalls had tissue rolls and hooks for your bags, jackets and umbrellas, just don’t forget them on your way out. There are hand dryers, hand soaps and hand napkins, all the conveniences of the big premium commercial malls in Metro Manila. The toilet for the PWD has a very wide door, with handle bars in the right places and a properly placed wash basin within arm’s reach from the lavatory. Their restrooms are constantly cleaned and meticulously maintained.

There are not many stores yet but soon we have already seen notices of soon-to-open stores. Surely a PWD will not be bored at the City Mall in Anabu. Every day of the week there are enjoyable activities that people can join in. Choose the one you like most and visit as often as you like. It will feel like a second home for the PWD shopper.

PwdPhil.com on CNN Philippines

On the UN International Day of Persons With Disabilities, we were fortunate to have guested on the CNN Philippines show Serbisyo All Access. It is the public service show of CNN Philippines where they answer questions from the viewers. As a founder of the PWDPhil, I was more than eager to answer questions many of us are not aware about. The Pinoy with Disability is not a special Pinoy who wants to be treated differently. Like you and me, the PWD wants to be treated equally, fairly and to be included in all activities of nation-building.

From pwdphil

Serbisyo All Access gave me and Ruthesia Cuaresma (who we fondly call Mommy Ruth), the opportunity to help educate the people about how PWDs should be treated. As mentioned in a previous article, PWDs need not be treated like they are idiots, they are people like you and me that need to be treated no differently.

One of the questions asked was the statistics on the number of PWDs in the Philippines. The basic determinant of that number is usually the PWD ID. This ID card is considered to be a government-issued ID and is usually for life, unless the disability ceases to be, for some reason. It has been known to happen.

According to the Philippine National Statistics Office, 1.6% of the country’s ppopulation are PWDs. However, there is no breakdown of that number, meaning it cannot be determined what kind of disability ranks as the most number of afflicted people and there is also no record of multiple disabilities, as there are people who suffer from more than one disability. Neither does the number give information on persons whose disabilities were inborn and who acquired their disability from a disease or accident.

Hosts Amelyn Veloso and Gani Oro asked about the importance of having the right statistics on PWDs. This is crucial so the national government can properly and effectively plan and budget for the various programs that, by law, must include PWDs such as housing, medical care and education.

One of Mommy Ruth’s disappointments about the system is the attitude towards PWDs. And I agree. It is the general public’s attitude and treatment of PWDs that make it increasingly difficult for them to be included in all our activities. So much so that some families of PWDs deny the existence of a disability if it is something that doesn’t manifest in appearance, such as Lupus, ADHD and mental problems. Recognizing the problem is the first step to its solution.

Again thank you very much to CNN Philippines for having us today.

From pwdphil