Writing this is easy because it is something that is very special to me.
I have had experience with autism since I was very small. My mother is a special education teacher who specializes in autism. She included me in her work, shared her experiences and taught me to always accept people as they are. I never understood what that meant
exactly, until after a lot of years of experience around people with disabilities.
I became a member of Voice for Autism because I like that it’s focused on young adults on the spectrum. We are a community that is often overlooked in all the discussions about autism.
I also like that its mission is to give a voice to those that often can’t speak for themselves.
According to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects an estimated 1 in 44 children. It is a childhood disorder with social and communication issues, along with restricted and repetitive behaviours that continue through adolescence and adulthood.
These restrictive and repetitive behaviours impact the individual and family at all stages of life and are extremely challenging. At a young age, these challenges are often faced with the support of teachers and therapists and families feel secure that their children are in a supportive and structured environment with professionals on hand.
One day my husband said, “You know what? I think the biggest gift we can give Louis is his independence.”
We were living in California. Louis was attending The Help Group, a leading school for Autism in the USA and, for us, the best place in the world for him. He was celebrated and championed every day and we had full confidence in the program and staff.
The Help Group also ran four group homes where young people were given the chance to live independently with their peers. You had to be 18, there was a long waiting list and we saw it as an extension of The Help Group. Of course, we wanted this for our son.
The long waiting list is not so long when your child is calm, is not on meds, when you have a good relationship with the school, and when you beg all the right people to say all the right things.
Shortly after his 18th birthday Louis, aka “The Prince”, entered the group home.
I have been working for different NGOs in several countries for the past six years. I feel privileged to be in a position that enables me to travel the word, meet new people, learn about different cultures and enhance my experience and perspective of the world we live in.
When I heard about a start-up NGO in Cyprus which focuses on young adults with autism, I was immediately interested. I have wanted to work for a start-up NGO for a while now.
I liked the idea of helping grow a group’s vision and being part of the creation process. I believe that education and awareness are key to tackling any challenges, so forming new messaging and developing outreach was appealing. Also, I knew I could put my NGO experience to good use.