Autism affects one in 68 children, and it’s one of the fastest growing developmental disorders in the last 20 years.
April is Autism Awareness Month — a month dedicated to educating the public about autism and helping to create a safer, happier world for those challenged by this disorder. Unbound sponsorship offers support to families around the world who are impacted by autism.
Ulises is a 22-year-old sponsored youth who has autism. He lives in Costa Rica with his mother, Marjorie, who takes care of him.
“My dream is that one day he would do things on his own, so he would be independent when I’m no longer with him,” Marjorie said.
Marjorie is a single mother. Ulises’ father abandoned the family, and Marjorie struggles to meet basic needs with the little financial assistance she receives from the government. She isn’t able to work because Ulises needs constant supervision.
“In the afternoon we like to walk,” she said. “That’s our distraction. … It’s really important to keep him busy. If he’s not doing any kind of activity, it may cause frustration for him.”
When Ulises got a sponsor, the family received monthly food stipends, access to medical treatment, tuition for Ulises, opportunities to take part in recreational activities and more. Marjorie said one of the benefits she’s been grateful for are the workshops she’s participated in.
“It is a blessing for me,” she said. “I receive counseling and workshops to try to understand Ulises’ behavior and to understand that he is able to join our society besides the discrimination from people.”
Although the workshops and meetings are helpful, life can still be challenging because of the discrimination Ulises and Marjorie face. Marjorie said it’s most difficult in the neighborhood where they live.
Some people in the neighborhood tease Ulises, trying to upset him and affect his mood. Marjorie does her best to deal with this discrimination and wants others to understand that autism is not an impediment to moving forward.
“Ulises is a loving and smart child,” she said. “Sometimes people might look at him as ‘strange,’ but he is a human being. … Children with autism are not a burden. They are a blessing. They show us how to live life from another perspective.”
Ulises graduated from high school last year and has a new goal of going to college. Completing high school was one of his dreams, and Marjorie was right next to him when he did.
Marjorie is proud of Ulises for achieving his dream. Although life is challenging at times, her message for others is that autism is not a barrier. A person living with autism can still move forward, and having autism is not an obstacle to achieving one’s goals.
Contributions to the Health of Unbound sponsored friends helps provide equipment and therapeutic services for sponsored friends with disabilities.