Amid the challenges in the education system brought about by COVID-19, the Department of Education (DepEd) and its partners reaffirmed their support for children with autism especially when it comes to their education.
In the conduct of the 2021 National Autism Conference which is also in line with the celebration of the 25th National Autism Consciousness Week, DepEd has partnered with the NORFIL Foundation, Inc. and Autism Society Philippines to further promote a sense of belonging and empowerment for children with special needs, such as those with autism.
DepEd said that it recognizes the important role of all sectors of society in achieving its goals for the inclusion of learners with autism. “By working together with our stakeholders, listening to their experiences, and finding ways within the system to create opportunities for meaningful collaboration, we can bring better services to our learners with autism,” Education Secretary Leonor Briones said.
Briones noted that the support for all children with disabilities, regardless of the nature and severity of their disability, and the need for related services are being recognized and catered to by DepEd.
DepEd, Briones added, also strives to ensure that these learners “receive appropriate education whether in the regular face-to-face classroom setting or a specialized set-up during this time of pandemic.”
DepEd is implementing a Special Education (SPED) program which is adaptive to the inclusive education needed by learners with disabilities. DepEd also launched various initiatives to ensure SPED will remain inclusive even in the new normal settings of basic education.
“DepEd recognizes the urgency to address the problems with regard to SPED and Inclusive Education thus, mechanisms have been adopted like the distance learning approach to learners with special needs education which is part of the Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP),” Briones said. “Hence by doing so, DepEd ensures that the right of these learners to receive appropriate education are met,” she added.
Dr. Alexis Reyes, president of International Developmental Pediatrics Association, also debunked some common myths tied with autism and discussed the situation of children with disabilities in the context of COVID-19.
“I want them to be happy. I hope they will be happy in whatever situation they might be in to appreciate their lives,” Reyes said. “The pandemic has taught us so many lessons on happiness [and] if you find something good in something so horrific, then, I think we still have hope,” he added.
Anchored on the theme “Pilipinong May Autismo: Kakaiba, Kasali, Konektado,” a virtual conference was held recently which focused on the societal awareness of the uniqueness of Filipinos on the spectrum, the inclusive development in human rights, education, employment, media, among others, and individual self-awareness, self-expression, and feeling of belonging to a compassionate society.
The virtual event featured plenary topics on the Situation of Children with Disabilities in Times of COVID-19, Right of Persons with Autism, The Truth About Autism, and Resources for Persons with Autism. Breakout sessions were also organized to further educate people on autism, which included topics on Early Intervention and Home Program, Sensory Issues and Hospital-friendly Environment, and Preparing Individuals with ASD for Employment and Autism Work.
Ranilo Sorongon of NORFIL also discussed the cluster of rights of every child, including children with autism, which includes Survival Rights, Developmental Rights, Protection Rights, and Participation Rights. “They must be included in whatever decisions that affect them and they must be included in society,” he added.