As I had mentioned in a previous post, the sons of both my director at the university and of my neighbors, the daughter and son-in-law of my landlords, have autism. Autism is being increasingly identified here in Romania, just as it is in other parts of the world. Because of the Communist outlook that swept all kinds of disabilities under the proverbial rug, people Amanda's age and older were not identified. Therefore, the staff at the center she has connected with are delighted to have her volunteering and helping with the children, but also to be able to question her about her experiences and memories of growing up.
Our neighbors, Alina and Bogdan, had let us know about this center relatively soon after our moving into our apartment. With the trip to the coast, company, and my getting started teaching, it was not until this past Monday that Amanda and I went to check things out. What a warm welcome we received! Apparently Bogdan had told them a bit about Amanda and her interest in coming.
The center is an ABA, applied behavior analysis, program and all the tutors were trained either in the US or by US consultants (see their website at http://www.invingemautismul.ro/). Therefore they all speak English well enough to communicate easily with Amanda. Some of the children attend full-time (9 am to 4:30 pm) and some just half time. The oldest child they are currently serving is an 11 year old girl. Amanda has gone each day this week, typically at about 1:00 when the staff are taking their lunch breaks. Amanda helps feed children their own lunches and also plays with and watches them while members of the staff have their breaks. The staff is also sensitive to Amanda's needs, giving her time on one of the swings for example.
They are clearly eager to pick her brain. On Thursday after the children had left for the day, Amanda met with most of the staff and presented some information about herself. This was her first public speaking event, but clearly it will not be her last! She is scheduled next week, along with me, to talk to the parents. She has also been asked about being interviewed for a TV program, working with the staff on some social skills videotapes, and being one of the honored guests at the "Blue Ball" in April, a fundraising gala. Amanda is thriving in the attention and it seems to be a win-win because the staff is clearly getting some benefit from her time there as well.
Amanda in a more pensive moment. She covered a wide range of topics and opened the doors for the staff to ask questions in the future.
Last, but not least, here is just a small sample of Amanda's presentation (about 2 1/2 minutes):