LGU empowers persons with autism through employment
MANILA, Philippines – In the government center of Carmona town in Cavite, two employees have been inspirational additions to the regular workforce.
Raychan Matieros, 19, is working for the information technology (IT) unit while Jomari Espinosa, 23, is detailed in the business processing office of the municipal hall. Both of them have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
People with similar conditions have experienced employment discrimination due to general notions of behavioral and (at varying levels) cognitive challenges. But Raychan and Jomari prove that this does not hinder them from functioning normally in a work environment.
Meet Raychan and Jomari
Raychan, diagnosed with mild autism, makes sure the IT office is spic and span before his colleagues come in. He also troubleshoots computer hardware issues with the assistance of the office technician.
“I started last April 2015 when the youth development officer of our persons with disability affairs office (PDAO) asked me to apply for a job at the municipal hall. I was initially assigned in the resource management unit but two months later, someone found out about my interest in computers so I was transferred to the IT office,” he said.
Asked about his experience working so far, the silent and shy teenage boy said it has been happy and fulfilling.
“Masayang-masaya na po, (I’m very happy)” he said. “I want to be able to provide for my family and relatives in the province. That’s what I realized when I started working here.”
Jomari, on the other hand, does clerical work such as filing documents, and printing and reproducing forms so that service delivery in their one-stop shop runs smoothly.
Behavioral difficulties are more pronounced in Jomari but his dedication to his job is not any lesser. During Rappler’s interview with him, he kept on talking about his work and his pending tasks that needs to attend to as if he was uneasy with the unscheduled break.
His focus on his job has also influenced some of his colleagues, especially in terms of punctuality.
“I go to work at 7:30 in the morning so I won’t be late. Others are late, they arrive even after 8 am when the bundy clock rings,” he shared. Jomari calls the attention of his workmates whenever they come in late.
Attention to detail
Based on a list by advocacy group Autism Speaks, key administrative skills are among the unique characteristics of persons with autism. These include competence in computer technology, encoding, and problem-solving. (READ: Job matching site promotes employment for PWDs)
In an office setting, those with ASD can also be notable for their honesty, as well as their sharp and detailed memory. They also have extreme concentration on a task at hand, qualities that amuse Raychan and Jomari’s mentors.
Computer technician Bernie Levardo said he really saw it as a challenge when he was tasked to mentor and supervise Raychan. Aside from his condition, Raychan at the time had little knowledge of computer systems.
“He could quickly pick up whatever I teach him,” he said. “Now, he can troubleshoot computers, though I still need to guide him.”
“[But] if I compare him with the others, I’m more motivated to teach him because he is very focused. There are some who may be know about computers but they are too stubborn or lazy to keep on learning,” he also said.
Licensing officer Teresa Laurora, who acts as Jomari’s immediate supervisor, flashed a smile as she recalled one instance when he had a ton of documents to file.
“Last time he had to file documents [that have] piled up in the past months. He was stressed because he was very focused, no one could order him other tasks. And he really wants to get things done immediately.”
She said Jomari does a lot of things around their division and they are also trying to teach him skills other than his usual chores, so that his competence would level up.
Jomari and Raychan were trained under the PDAO’s center-based program provided free by the local government.
Established in 2000, this intervention facilitates the learning of the persons with disabilities (PWDs) in various areas such as academics and entrepreneurship. Eventually, their students are assessed whether they can join regular schooling or pursue a livelihood track.
Headed by PDAO livelihood and support coordinator Cherry Ramos, they coordinate with the local Public Employment Service Office (PESO).
Aside from the two persons with autism, the local government led by Mayor Dahlia Loyola also employs other differently-abled staff: two who are hearing-impaired, two who are visually-impaired, and Cherry who herself is orthopedically handicapped.
“Sa aspeto ng pera malaking tulong ito para sa kanila, kasi syempre sa pamamagitan nito ay makakatulong sila sa kanilang pamilya, and at the same time, masusuportahan nila kahit sa kaunting halaga 'yong pangangailangan nila sa kanilang sarili,” she said.
(Financially, it is a big help because through the program they can provide for their family and their needs at the same time.)
“’Yung confidence syempre ‘di na nila maiisip na sila ay may kapansanan, lalung-lalo na kapag sila ay nagtatrabaho na, at saka isa pa, maipakita din nila sa mga tao na sa kabila ng kanilang kapansanan may kakahayhan silang gumawa,” she added.
(It's a confidence boost; the don't think of themselves as disabled anymore especially when they're working. In addition, they can show other people that they are capable of working despite their disability.)
The local government of Carmona has been cited several times for their inclusion efforts. Other LGUs are looking at their example, with officials from other local governments visiting them so they can replicate the program in their respective communities. – Rappler.com