written by Anastasia Para, Spring 2019 Fellow from Moldova
The most exciting and wonderful aspect of my experience in the PFP was to “feel on my skin” the true inclusive community spirit. Diversity is the key word for American society, and this makes it possible for anyone to become an active and full member. I had the opportunity to visit specialized institutions, centers, and programs for people with disabilities. All those services and settings have the same final goal – to create as many opportunities as possible for the people with disabilities (and particularly people with autism) to be part of society and to live a full life.
I learned a lot of useful and applicative technics during the program. With a particular emphasis on building a less restrictive environment for people with disabilities and increasing their independence, namely:
- the job shadowing programs in St. Coletta of Greater Washington for people with autism, and the cooperation with potential employers;
- the inclusive education program developed by Virginia Institute of Autism in public schools;
- the Caregiver Skills Training developed by Autism Speaks and the World Health Organization and implemented in 30 countries around the world with middle and low income.
I will be able to apply all this and many other knowledge in Moldova as a parent of an autistic child and head of a local NGO. This experience also influenced my personal attitude and understanding of the topic of autism. I learned about the support groups for parents of children diagnosed with autism and their role for the autistic community. This led me to the idea of creating a similar practice in Moldova and creating a link between parents with similar problems and fears to help them improve the quality of life of their children and their families.
In conclusion, the PFP experience represents for me not only a professional program, but also a chain of invaluable human resources, of which I am a part now and of which I am very proud.