SM Markets opens more doors to Persons with Autism

With full smiles and full SM Markets gear, a new batch of persons with autism (PWAs) puts on their aprons as they get ready to experience and prove themselves productive in a supermarket workplace setting. SM Markets opened its doors to people living with autism in 2016 through a project called “AutiSM at Work.” It was piloted at Savemore Market Light Residences and was eventually implemented at SM Supermarket Aura and Savemore Market Mezza. Now, the group expands AutiSM at Work to thirteen more stores including provincial branches like Cebu, Iloilo, and Davao.

AutiSM at Work is a disability workplace inclusion program championed by SM Markets and the Autism Society Philippines (ASP) and inspired by best practices in community based rehabilitation. The program provides PWAs the opportunity to prove that young adults on the spectrum are productive contributors in a workplace. Participants of the program (3 PWAs for every store) are assigned various tasks in the supermarket selling area, such as returning stray items, organizing carts and baskets, as well as assisting customers. Simultaneously, there is an in-store advocacy campaign to help educate customers on how to deal respectfully with their workers with autism.

AutiSM at Work currently runs at Savemore Market Light Residences (Mandaluyong), Savemore Market Mezza Residences (Quezon City), Savemore Market Acacia (Taguig), Savemore Market Park Mall (Cebu), Savemore Market Jaro (Iloilo), and SM Supermarket Aura (Taguig). Its expansion to stores outside Metro Manila propels the project from an immersive exercise to a nationwide movement promoting the workplace inclusion of PWAs. The program will be rolled out in the following stores soon: Savemore Market Berkley (Quezon City), Savemore Market M. Place (Quezon City), Savemore Market Bangkal (Davao), SM Supermarket Calamba (Laguna), SM Supermarket BF Homes (Paranaque), SM Supermarket Cebu (Cebu), SM Supermarket Seaside (Cebu), SM Supermarket Lanang Premiere (Davao), SM Supermarket Ecoland (Davao), and SM Hypermarket Pasig (Pasig).

SM Markets training partners Independent Living and Learning Center (Mandaluyong and Cebu), The Learning Center (Paranaque) and WorkAbilities (Iloilo) provide critical support to companies and workers with autism. Autism is a lifelong developmental exceptionality that challenges an individual’s ability to communicate, socialize, and adapt to the world. It is a spectrum condition which manifests in different ways in different people. While some PWAs need help with daily living, there are those who have abilities and talents like good memory, extraordinary spatial skills, organization which are desirable qualities in the workplace. Candidates for the “AutiSM at Work” program undergo interviews and assessments to ensure job-ready skills and behaviors. The UP College of Education administers an occupational aptitude and interest test to properly match the candidates to the job requirements. The ASP also meets with the candidate’s families to ensure the PWAs will receive significant support towards job success. The shortlist is then endorsed to SM Markets where the candidates go through the standard recruitment and training process.

As more and more SM Markets stores open their doors to PWAs, more individuals living with autism are given the chance to be productive in workplaces such as supermarkets. The program has also paved the way for deeper understanding of autism and how people, including SM’s stakeholders, suppliers, employees, and customers, can interact normally and meaningfully with PWAs. So the next time you happen to be at SM Markets, don’t be surprised if you bump into a PWA in an SM Markets uniform with the sincerest smile handing you your shopping basket for the day. Chances are, you’re in for a world-class SM service delivered by one of SM’s new found friends from AutiSM at Work.

About “AutiSM at Work” Partners

SM Markets operates the largest chain of food retail stores in the Philippines and is a business segment under SM Prime. With the leadership of SM Cares, the conglomerate is becoming a catalyst of positive change that uplifts quality of life of Filipino communities, including employment of the marginalized and other helpful initiatives.

The Autism Society Philippines envisions an environment that empowers persons with autism spectrum disorder to become the best of their potentials -- self-reliant, independent, productive and socially-accepted members of the community. Towards this, the ASP commits to the establishment of institutional mechanisms to support persons with autism and their families towards an Autism-OK Philippines. Learn more at www.autismsocietyphilippines.org.

Media Contacts
Autism Society Philippines Mona Magno-Veluz autismphils@gmail.com 0917-882-9665
SM Markets Marketing Communications Group Frances Crisol - 0917-530-5636 Olivier Guevara - 0915-323-5525