A Mom’s Voice: Hope for the ‘Hopeless’

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014


AS A mother and an educator, I emphasized the importance of preparing children and adults with special needs for life. I would like to share the thoughts of a mother whose son successfully faced the challenges of being able to find work placement at SM City Davao through the support of his parents, teachers, his employer and co-workers. Mrs. Josie Tejada prepared and delivered this message during her son’s graduation from the ILLC program.

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The prospect of employment for a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder is virtually nil. With a large number of underemployed and unemployed in the country, the disabled sector falls at the bottom line in employment opportunities. Even if some employers are willing to employ persons with disability, they are few and far between because for every one disabled person seeking a job, there are at least a hundred able-bodied persons waiting on the sidelines.

Juan Carlos is a classic case of Asperger’s Syndrome. At 26, CJ had been to six schools and even graduated from a two-year vocational course.

While fully functional, CJ could be integrated in the mainstream, but he still exhibits the classic characteristics of Asperger’s such as significant difficulties in social interaction and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Although his linguistic and cognitive development is preserved, he continues to exhibit atypical use of language. These are the very aspects of his condition that compel would-be employers to think twice in offering him gainful employment. Thus, in spite of having sent numerous applications to various offices and enterprises, job opportunities continued to elude him.

Given this scenario it seemed that CJ had no hope of being employed at all and would probably live his life as a dependent to his aging parents, and the charity of siblings and relatives. Still, he dreamt of being a working person, receiving compensation for his own work, and gaining the dignity and self-esteem that comes from an honest job, no matter how menial it may seem.

In 2010, we learned of the ILLC program for adult Autists, which offered among others, training in job readiness and the hope of a work placement for qualified persons classified as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).

With the kind assurance of school’s Administrator, Ms. Jane Gonzales, CJ was accepted into the Job Readiness Program for possible employment.

Jobs available for his kind of behavioral and linguistic disability are very limited, but ILLC trained him anyhow in clerical work and other blue collar jobs which were basically routinary in nature. As atypical behavior was his main setback, ILLC teachers focused their intervention on this aspect of his condition, and over time he acquired a sense of control over these atypical tendencies.

Today, CJ is a proud owner of an I.D. as a Service Elevator Attendant at SM City. He works six days a week and receives minimum wage with all the attendant benefits of an employee. As his schedule is from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., he wakes up at four in the morning, prepares his own breakfast and leaves for work at 5 a.m. to make it early at his workplace.

Observing his zeal and enthusiasm for his job, we, his parents, are filled with gratefulness to God for having learned about the ILLC program and the opportunity it offered for our son to be employed. This he would never have achieved if not for the devotion and commitment of ILLC teachers in training him to rise above his disability in order to become a productive member of society.

With ILLC at the forefront of this rare – and often neglected sector for educable autists, there is truly hope for the “hopeless”.

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Mrs. Josie Tejada’s words are indeed very inspiring for parents of children with special needs whose common dream is to give a productive life to their children. I personally believe that whatever level of functionality each child has, he has the potential to be productive and independent in his own way.

Jane Ann S. Gonzales is a mother of a youth with autism. She is an advocate/core member of the Autism Society Philippines and Directress of the Independent Living Learning Centre (ILLC) Davao, a centre for teenagers and adults with special needs. For comments or questions, please email janeanngonzales@yahoo.com).

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 05, 2014.

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