Week-long event pushes for autism-OK Philippines, tackles challenges amid COVID-19
SM Cares once again partnered with the Autism Society Philippines (ASP) to celebrate the National Autism Consciousness Week 2022, held annually every January, highlighting the most pressing issues affecting individuals on the autism spectrum and those who care for them.
Mona Veluz and Dang Koe of Autism Society Philippines with Bien Mateo and Chito Bauzon of SM Supermalls
The theme for the 26th National Autism Consciousness Week, “Nurturing Public-Private Alliances Towards an Autism-OK Philippines,” encourages stakeholders from the public and private sectors to address the needs of individuals on the autism spectrum amid the current health crisis.
Numerous activities took place throughout the week-long observance, beginning with the #1Pangako Challenge social media campaign to promote kindness toward persons with autism, and the launch of the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower campaign, which establishes an easilyrecognizable symbol for hidden disabilities such as autism.
Various webinars with topics on autism awareness were held. Online discussions included the effectiveness and ethics of autism interventions; sensitivity training for first responders; autism-inclusive employment, rights-based development for the disability sector; and how Filipinos and their loved ones are on the spectrum see their lives changed mid-pandemic. There was also a festival of short videos where individuals on the spectrum and their families showcased their talents.
One of the webinars, the “Autism Sensitivity Training for First Responders” webinar, shared how SM Cares recognizes the importance of training the first responders, such as security guards and maintenance and mall personnel, how to assist and interact with persons with autism, especially during emergencies, and in the context of the pandemic. More than 1,000 attendees, composed of mall security personnel, employees, Bureau of Fire Protection officers and personnel, and nurses of SM, joined.
Security personnel of SM Supermalls during the Autism Sensitivity Training for First Responders
Back in 2004, as part of a renewed commitment to creating a safer and more welcoming environment for persons with disability in all of SM’s spaces, SM Cares conducted its first Sensitivity Training, which educated attendees on handling customers with different customers’ needs. Since then, SM Cares has been annually working the training, with thousands attending every year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to make life more challenging for persons with autism, as well as their families. We need to work together more than ever in pushing for an autism-OK Philippines. SM Supermalls, through SM Cares, remain committed to creating a more inclusive society for every Filipino, and we thank the Autism Society Philippines for the partnership,” said Engr. Bien Mateo, SM Supermalls SVP Operations and SM Cares Head of Program on PWDs.
“These times call for the public and private sectors coming together to act on issues that will elevate the vulnerable. ASP sees our partnership with SM Cares as a mechanism to scale our inclusion initiative to our 100 chapters nationwide,” added Mona Magno-Veluz, National President of the Autism Society Philippines.
Image taken from the 26th National Autism Consciousness Week Opening Ceremonies Video
Aside from ensuring that its malls and business environments are inclusive and PWD-friendly, SM Supermalls has other programs promoting social inclusion. The celebration of the National Down Syndrome Consciousness Month in partnership with the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines; World Autism Awareness Day; World Down Syndrome Day; and the annual Emergency Preparedness Forum aimed at educating PWDs and senior citizens on what to do during emergencies. Through these, SM Cares supports “SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities” under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
SM Cares is the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of SM Prime Holdings, with programs to support communities, promote social inclusion and care for the environment. Its CSR advocacies include Programs for the Environment, Persons with Disabilities, Women & Breastfeeding Mothers, Children & Youth, Senior Citizens, and the Bike-Friendly SM Program.
Learn more by visiting www.smsupermalls.com/smcares.