Raise your hand if these attributes come to mind when you think of autism: methodical skill, intelligence and uniqueness, just like Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man. Indeed, all these (and many, many more) are part of the kaleidoscope of emotions and characteristics that distinguish an autistic person.
Autism is a neurological disorder causing cognitive deficit, impaired language and often decreased socialization skills; simply put, patients with autism have difficulty verbalizing and communicating feelings and are extremely sensitive to external stimuli such as crowds, sounds or varied lighting.
When it is detected early and treated, the quality of life of the person with autism is greatly improved. They say love moves mountains, and the determination, strength and vision of a couple of moms have made a difference in dozens of families during the last decade.
Red Autismo was created in Los Cabos by the need of an appropriate space for Francis and Lemonia, mothers of Regina and Daniel (diagnosed at an early age) to understand the implications of autism; and a place to support their skill development and to work on their areas of opportunity so both Regina and Daniel could be independently and productively integrated into society.
Therapies took place in Francis’ home and little by little, they began to notice positive changes in their children’s communication and interaction abilities. Changes were evident and they realized they weren’t the only ones in the area with autistic children. They continued to research and in 2008 decided to form a nonprofit Civil Association that would help them with the space and proper therapies not just for them, but for other children and their families.
Through the efforts of Francis and Lemonia and the generous support from Los Cabos Children’s Foundation and other local businesses, the Red Autismo therapy center opened in 2010. With the help of neuro-linguistic development professionals, patients and families have come to establish routines, build relationships, heal emotional wounds, promote a sense of awareness as well as develop tolerance and empathy in society. They are also communicating that people living with this disorder are human beings with repetitive compulsive tendencies, are without malice, and are really curious and deeply loving.
Each therapy is based on the individual assessments of each child to establish work plans to develop their skills through experiences. With each achievement reached new goals are set; Regina enjoys eating Lay’s Chips, and do you know how she pays for them? By working half an hour every day at the corner store helping sorting and cleaning shelves. In addition to therapy, there is the INEVI system that takes the SEP educational program and adapts its most important points so that the children can eventually attend classes on a regular school.
A special recognition to all those businesses and local schools that integrate and support entire families by making them feel welcome and allowing them to be themselves. Another amazing “therapy” of expression and growth is a workshop by the Surfers Healing foundation, a program that has enabled hundreds of children around the world to surf twice a year and enjoy the glory of the sea.
Red Autismo exists thanks to the dedication and commitment of two mothers that started the program, to the support of other foundations, to contributions from families, donations and fundraising activities such as Krispy Kreme doughnut sales and the Color Run race in San Jose. All these efforts help to cover the therapy center and educational area’s operating expenses. This year, thanks to private donors, the therapeutic and educational center facilities were purchased and currently serve around 50 children.
There is still so much to do: to be able to continue with the program, to expand the facilities and offer new experiences such as cooking, gardening, sports, etc, the support you and I can provide is vital. Regardless of financial support, the best form of solidarity is being empathetic and tolerant, accepting differences, applauding their achievements and promoting the integration of these wonderful human beings into our everyday life. Sometimes just a smile can make a difference.
For more information about Autism and how you can help, contact Lemonia Aretos at Cell (624) 166.8186; Office (624) 120.6328; visit www.redautismo.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com