Friday, October 26, 2012

Amanda and volunteering

Amanda has connected with a center for kids with autism and she has been busy this past week!  As Amanda put it, "I never knew that being an American adult with autism would be such a phenomenon here in Romania!"  But perhaps we are getting ahead of the story...

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  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.

 Here is Amanda during her presentation.  The staff has already learned that her favorite beverage is Sprite (next to Dr. Pepper, which is much harder to come by here in Romania).

 The staff are listening attentively.  The room is a therapy room and not very big.

 The woman in the left above, Luciana, is in charge of the therapeutic parts of the center and is Amanda's "supervisor".  She and the others we have met are all young and enthusiastic!

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):

1 comment:

  1. What a great presentation Amanda. While I agree, your mom's love and patience has been more than admirable, don't forget to acknowledge your own strength and perseverance. Without a willingness to work very hard to overcome barriers, you would not be the capable, independent person you've become. Cheers to you as well Amanda!