Non-governmental organisation ‘Voice for Autism’ wants to change the state of play for people with autism in Cyprus and that’s why they are calling for a National Strategy.
Journalist, writer and activist Ellen Georgiou Pontiki who is the NGO’s visionary told Philenews:”My son Louis is a young adult of 28 with autism who wants to go out, wants company, wants employment, wants to sing…he wants a meaningfully and connected life.”
She added: “As Voice for Autism we want to change the ground for children with autism. That is why we are asking the state to create a National Strategy.”
Voice for Autism today has 200 members and already secured the use of two new-build homes in Lakatamia, Nicosia, which are next to each other and centrally located, close to amenities.
They will serve as prototypes for future assisted-living homes with 24-hour care. The model is one whereby the NGO, with its expertise and experience with autism, creates a permanent residence for autistic individuals.
Pontiki also said that the NGO’s next goal is to open a restaurant in Nicosia so that autistic individuals can be employed there – on the basis of their abilities, thus, achieving integration as well.
Two years ago when Pontiki moved back to Cyprus from California, USA, she realised that the country had nothing to a young man like Louis as far as living an independent life goes.
“I knew that action had to be taken,” she said. “In the US, Louis had been in an assisted living programme. That experience matured him. He left the childhood interests he had in our home. He wanted a mobile phone, to wanted to listen to rock music.”
“So, in contact with professionals focusing on autism as well as other parents who shared the same concerns, we created Voice for Autism. We were people with a shared vision. So we started out strong, without relying on the state,” she added.
With the support of private individuals, they acquired two small houses in Lakatamia intended for supported living and the interest expressed was remarkable, she also said.
Six young adults with autism will live in the two residences with their daily schedule to include creative activities and actions additional to their routine. That’s why they have turned to state services.
Speech pathologist Evgenia Mina, vice president of the organization and also a parent of a young adult with autism, said along with her son, Christos, have prepared his room in one of the houses in Lakatamia.
They have also done garden work and other activities in the area to make him feel familiar with the environment.
The goal, she said, is to get the children into these homes and live as much as possible an independent life. To offer them, at the same time, activities based on their interests as well.
“A National Strategy for individuals with autism is a must,” she added.