COTABATO CITY ― To create a society more inclusive and supportive of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a measure has been introduced in Parliament that aims to establish an integrated and comprehensive program to help children diagnosed with ASD.
Engr. Baintan Ampatuan, the principal author of Parliament Bill No. 245, said that the program will assist children with ASD in reaching their full potential and becoming independent, self-reliant, productive, and socially acceptable members of society.
ASD is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how individuals interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, symptoms typically manifest in the first two years of life.
Despite existing legislation like the Magna Carta for Displaced Persons, Engr. Ampatuan highlighted the insufficiency of programs that meet the special requirements of Bangsamoro people with autism. Currently, an estimated 1.2 million Filipinos are living with autism.
Engr. Ampatuan said that it is the Bangsamoro government’s responsibility to provide protection and care, particularly to those on the autism spectrum, addressing their specific needs.
Presently, there is no law in the BARMM that promotes the general welfare of individuals diagnosed with ASD, including identification, assessment, and support.
With the introduction of Parliament Bill No. 245, Engr. Ampatuan anticipates a shift towards normalizing ASD and destigmatizing the negative connotations surrounding it in society. This bill is expected to raise awareness and promote a better understanding of ASD among the public.
A Bangsamoro Council on Autism will be constituted as part of the proposed legislation. The council will develop a comprehensive program aimed at boosting public awareness, education, and information dissemination about ASD, among other functions.
The components of the program include:
• early screening and detection of autism;
• identify and provide appropriate intervention, medical expertise, and facilities suited to the needs of the beneficiaries;
• Special needs and education training for selected public school teachers;
• Protection against discrimination in schools, whether public or private;
• easy access to transportation;
• Conduct epidemiological research on all issues concerning ASD; and
• Increase public awareness, education, and information on autism.
The Council will operate under the Office of the BARMM Chief Minister and include a representative from the Autism Society of the Philippines, along with two representatives from non-governmental organizations advocating for the prevention, cure, and rehabilitation of persons with ASD.
Three years following the bill’s implementation, the Council will submit a report to the Bangsamoro Parliament to ensure continued responsiveness to the needs of individuals with ASD.
Ampatuan emphasized the importance of recognizing the vulnerability of individuals on the autism spectrum due to their physical, mental, intellectual, and sensory impairments.
She asked the Bangsamoro government to continue recognizing and meeting the needs of this underserved population in order to improve health service delivery to the Bangsamoro people.
“The over-all well-being of every Bangsamoro, including those on the spectrum, is of paramount importance, which is exactly why we need to open our eyes to the realities that these people continue to face,” she added.
The co-authors of PB No. 245 are MPs Atty. Laisa Alamia, Amilbahar Mawallil, Atty. Suharto Ambolodto, Engr. Don Mustapha Loong, Atty. Rasol Mitmug Jr., Rasul Ismael, Tawakal Midtimbang, Jaafar Apollo Mikhail Matalam, Michael Midtimbang, Atty. Sittie Fahanie Uy-Oyod, and Bassir Utto. (LTAIS-Public Information, Publication, and Media Relations Division)