Why autism should be understood instead of mocked with #BoyetChallenge

January 28, 2019 - 2:32 PM
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In this photo: A child sits alone on a bench (Unsplash/Michał Parzuchowski)

Video clips of people mimicking a character with autism disorder in GMA’s “My Special Tatay” brought up anew the topic of discrimination against people with disabilities on social media.

Since December 2018, some Filipinos had been posting and sharing videos of people copying the mannerisms of Boyet Mariano, a father with a form of autism, in an online trend called hashtag #Boyetchallenge. Mariano is played by actor Ken Chan.

The online challenge is the latest incident on social media that was perceived as offensive against PWD’s following the video clip of bloggers Mocha Uson and Drew Olivar that mocked the deaf by imitating sign language.

Understanding autism

According to Psychology Today, people with autism generally lack social and communication skills that others have developed while growing up.

Autism spectrum disorder or ASD is a “complex developmental disorder” that varies in severity and has four types—autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder.

“Common features of ASD include impaired social interactions, impaired verbal and nonverbal communication, problems processing information from the senses, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior,” the website explained.

Given such impairment, adults and children with autism have unusual or odd behaviors and responses to their environment, thus making human interaction extremely difficult for them.

Familiarity and predictable or routine behaviors help autistic people understand the world, a study said.

“Routines and structure reduce the complexity and unpredictability of the social world, which may be especially important for children who do not understand the mentalistic reasons for other people’s actions,” Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg said in the study.

“Thus social interactions are more frequent when the autistic child interacts with familiar people, who behave in predictable ways, in their environment,” she added.

The exact cause of autism is yet to be determined but researchers relate it to risk factors, such as having an immediately family member with autism and having a genetic disease like fragile X syndrome, according to Healthline, a medical website.

Autism also does not have a one-size-fits-all cure or treatment. Instead, medical professionals offer different therapeutic approaches, such as occupational and behavioral therapy, to help autistic people function and feel better.

In the Philippines, at least a million Filipinos have a form of autism, according to an official from the Department of Health.

The story of the Kapuso series basically tells the story of a person with autism who fathered a child with his childhood friend.

In a report, its director Lord Alvin Madridejos explained that the production team consulted a psychiatrist to ensure they do not misrepresent a person with intellectual disability..

“We have to do what’s right because otherwise, we might misrepresent [the people with intellectual disabilities],” he said.

Discriminating persons with disabilities

Autism Philippines pointed out that “The Boyet Challenge” is a form of ridicule against Filipinos who are mentally ill.

The Autism Society Philippines condemns the latest social media experiment called "The Boyet Challenge" (where…

Posted by Autism Society Philippines on Thursday, January 24, 2019

It particularly called out Benedict Cua, a YouTube vlogger, for carrying out the trend on his channel.

Cua later made a video to apologize for it and deleted the video as well.

Similarly, the University of the Philippines-College of Education also denounced the trend as “an outright form of discrimination to persons with disabilities.”

The “Boyet Challenge”, which is inspired by the GMA television series “My Special Tatay”, is an outright form of…

Posted by UPD College of Education Student Council on Saturday, January 26, 2019

Both groups cited Republic Act 9442 or the Amended Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, wherein Section 40 states

“No individual, group or community shall execute any of these acts of ridicule against persons with disability in any time and place which could intimidate or result in loss of self-esteem of the latter.”

Public vilification against persons with disabilities is also prohibited in Section 42.

Villification refers to “an activity in public which incites hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of persons with disability.”

To raise awareness on autism, Malacañang declared every third week of January as Autism Consciousness Week by virtue of Proclamation No. 711.