All day today was an extremely emotional experience for me personally. We spent some time going to a different school in the community, cerrito azul, and met with a wide variety of kids with autism and other special needs. I was amazed at how a handful of teachers managed 50+ kids and were so engaged, loving and catering to their needs. They are unconsciously applying ABA principles, like they say “Necessity is the mother of invention”. I was so overwhelmed when a 20 ish year old adult came running to me and shared a cookie with me. All I could think of was my son Sam sharing a cookie with me. Sam is 9, and he has autism. I think I see Sam in all kids/adults with disabilities. I gladly took it, ate it and he gave me this big hug and kissed me. He also took a picture with me and smiled widely for the picture. I played with little Mickey, kicked ball with Junior and pretended to understand all they had to say in Spanish. “Si” is all I had in response. “Si, Muy Bien, you are just so amazing” is all I could think of.
Next came my evening workshop with fellow parents who are clients of Alconzando. Molly asked me to make a quick presentation of Sam and my life with him. Luckily, I am a big FB user and I had every picture of him since 2008, I got it all down. I selected 25 pictures that told a good story, of him learning to bike, scooter, try sleepovers, restaurants, airplane rides. Sam is my favorite topic of all times, so I know I would be fine. I started talking about my life with Sam and it just resonated with each and every parent in the room. Remember, I don’t even speak Spanish, we had a great translator in Miguel who did his best to depict the variety of emotions. At the end of the presentation, I just got so overwhelmed, trying to be strong all this time and locking up my tears and emotions for a few days, I just burst into tears. Tears of joy to have found one another in this big world, tears of empathy, tears of connection, love and just being there for each other. There was not a dry eye in the room. Debbie did a great job showing off all her pictures around the world she took of kids/adults with autism.
Finally, Molly ended the discussion with a great statement, “You have been chosen – chosen because you’re strong, you’re loving, and you can do this. You may not know it yet, but you can do this. And we’ll be here…”
I left the room overwhelmed but extremely happy at the same time that I got this wonderful opportunity to make a small difference in a very small way. I have a way of connecting maybe not with my own parents and siblings but with parents across the world!!
This has been a great experience and I am hoping GAP would have me go to more countries and do such workshops, not only to spread the story of hope, love and acceptance, but also to know that there are other parents who feel this way all across the world, speaking different languages, living different cultures, but in a strange way, closer to them than their own neighbor.
Muchos Gracias Peru!!
Global Autism Project Board Member