By Vivien Hoyt
I have a cockatoo, Juliette, and she has this amazing ability to see a good person from across the room. If you believe in angels, you will find some of them work at Clinica de Autismo /DIF here in Huatulco. I have had the fortunate experience of volunteering for them the last few months and let’s just say that the DIF staff have received Juliette’s approval. They are the most loving, kind, compassionate people you could ever meet.
They graciously thank me for coming, but really I need to thank them. It has been very rewarding and taught me many things about selfless giving. They assigned me to help with physical therapy exercises. In California, I worked in many medical facilities and some people were in it for the money and some people have a heart. The Huatulco staff is all heart and because of that, the children have improved tremendously in the last two years.
One of the boys, Joseph, was not speaking at all two years ago,now he has a large vocabulary. He met Juliette a few times and then I went back to the United States to visit family. Upon my return, he remembered her and that she was a “cockatoo” and pronounced her name correctly. I found this remarkable. Joseph attends physical therapy a few times a week and his speech therapist works with him daily along with the other professional staff.
They began the center two years ago with 9 children and now help 51. Families come from all over Oaxaca to receive therapy for their children.
The Huatulco Clinic is affiliated with Mexican Autism Clinic (CLIMA), which allows the recognition, support and benefits provided to affiliates totaling 13 nationally.
Dr. Carlos Salazar is the director Marcin A. CLIMATE C, supervisor, and affiliates which provides supervision and counseling, psycho-educational support to families in the area bi-monthly. There are five paid staff members – four psychologists and 1 language therapist. They provide sensory stimulation (massage), psychology, physical therapy, cognitive therapy, daily living skills, laundry, dressing, housekeeping, language skills, medication, nutrition , pet, and music therapy.
Huatulco is the first clinic in Oaxaca offering individual and specialized treatment to children and youth with autism that is subsidized by municipal authorities.
Autism is a complex neurological disorder that typically lasts a lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Currently diagnosed with autism are 1 in 110 individuals and 1 in 70 boys, making it more common than cancer, diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. It comes in any social group, race and ethnicity, and is four times more common in boys then in girls.
Autism impairs a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It is also associated with routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from mild to very severe.
Expenses for the Clinic
The number of children being served increases day after day and the need for more staff is a reality, as is the need to offer a fair salary. The work is physical, intellectual and emotionally demanding.
There is also the constant risk of assault or injury coupled with the high professional standards that are required in order to maintain quality service.
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders need neurological assessments at least every 6 months and daily neurological drugs. It is also very expensive for families to travel, pay for accommodations and meals, etc.
Currently, the government pays for the building, utilities, and professional staff. Everything else is paid for by the parents and fund-raising activities.
The Dream for 2013
The dream is to provide more services to a larger area of people. They would like to offer a place to stay for the children who live far away. The idea is to build an upstairs suite which will have a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping area, etc. They will have 24-hour staff to supervise the children. The cost to expand the current facility is between $600,000 – $800,000 pesos, this does not include furniture, and all other amenities to furnish a home.
How you can help….
If you would like to help with this wonderful project, donations will be greatly appreciated, ie: towels, bedding, furniture, toys, toiletries, cleaning products, etc. etc. They can be dropped off at DIF which is on the corner of Guelaguetza and Oaxaca in La Crucecita. They could also use a running vehicle to help transport the children.