By Andrea Cota, a member of the SkillCorps DR October 2015 team
On Tuesday morning, headed to our second day of work at Aprendo, we had an encounter with a man on the street in Santo Domingo. The SkillCorps team all wear logo polo shirts and carry logo tote bags to work. I imagine we paint quite the picture as we walk through the neighborhoods to get to the Aprendo center. We definitely do not blend in.
We had passed many street vendors on the way, some more assertive than others. When suddenly, we realized we were being called to from behind. We did what many travelers would do in an unfamiliar area; we ignored him and kept walking, assuming he was trying to sell us something. However, his tone of voice was so insistent and he continued to persist in asking to speak with us that finally, we stopped.
You could see the relief on his face that we had stopped to talk to him. He thanked us profusely for stopping and then he began to share the story of the impact of autism on his life. He recognized the signs of autism in his now six year old son at around the age of two. Having had a cousin with autism, some of the characteristics were familiar to him. Upon researching information about autism to learn more about his son, he realized that he also probably has autism, albeit high functioning.
He shared some about his childhood and his struggles while growing up. He also shared with us about some of the wonderful skills his son has and some areas he needs help with. He told us that his son attends public school and is not receiving any additional services outside of school. This man was so excited to see us walking down the street that he pretty much chased us down to talk to us to try to get help for his son. He was so excited to hear about the Aprendo center and where to find them. He also gave us his contact information to give to the center so that he can meet with them to talk about his son.
His story was so emotional for him that I cannot even do it justice with my words. It reminded me of why I am so happy to be here! Having this opportunity to put someone in the community in touch with resources, which can help him get services for his child, is part of what this is all about. Knowing that the Aprendo staff is amazing, gives me confidence that they will be able to help him with his son.