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it looks like any trendy Manila restaurant

Inspired by the positive change they saw in Jose when he began to learn practical skills, they decided to employ others with autism and call it the Puzzle Cafe because the international symbol of autism is a jigsaw piece. This symbol runs throughout the cafe, from the couch cushions to the aprons worn by members of staff. They opened in April, to coincide with the Philippines' Autism Awareness month.

On the inside it looks like any trendy Manila restaurant with its colourful, modern furniture and patterned, cement floors. On one shelf sit imported marmalades and packaged risottos, and on another are bracelets and key chains made by autistic people.

This means that a lot of the customers who come in don't realise that the majority of the staff there are autistic, says Ysabella, Jose's sister who oversees the day-to-day operations of the cafe.
Customers occasionally get upset when they don't understand why they struggle to communicate with the waiters, but these interactions turn into opportunities to change perceptions about autism, and to highlight what people with autism are capable of doing, she says.

Breaking down the stigma around autism is an important part of what the Canoy family hopes to achieve with the cafe.

Born only two years apart, Jose and Ysabella are close. At a hotel pool during a family vacation when she was six, she says she was struck for the first time by the looks other children and adults gave Jose. He was acting the way he always did, flapping his arms, talking to himself and his toys, and keeping himself busy.

"When people started looking at him that's when I realised: 'Oh, that's because he's different'," she says. But the family only ever saw him as Jose, and want to teach people what autistic people are capable of.
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