.- To Gerardo Gaya a diagnosis changed his life forever. In 2012, his little Alvaro was diagnosed with autism, a condition that, he says, sounds terrible.
There, the now director and founder of the association Iluminemos de azul, knew first-hand the lack of information, knowledge, but above all the taboos and social barriers faced not only by children living with this condition, but also by their relatives .
“Autism is a condition invisible to the eyes, what is not seen is not known and what is not known does not matter,” he tells in an interview with Efe in the framework of the World Autism Day celebrated on April 2.
He explains that as Álvaro’s father, who is now nine years old, one of the main challenges has been inclusion, “since we live in a country where disability is seen with pity or as a tragedy”.
Thus, being the father of a child who lives with this condition, he says, is a road full of challenges “is a constant challenge with the environment with the knowledge that there is of autism, the social challenge, the context in which we live”, accepts .
Autism, he says, simply did not exist in the conversation of a society.
Autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) are characterized by children having long-term problems with communication and social interaction, repetitive behavior, or not wanting to change their daily routine.
According to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), one out of every 160 children has an ASD, but in the last 50 years, the worldwide prevalence seems to be increasing.
But the definition of autism changes from the point of view of parents like Gerardo.
“A person with autism is like you and me, but does not act the same because it processes information in a different way,” he says.
However, children with this condition are highly misunderstood in everyday social contexts.
Going to the movies, to the supermarket, to a restaurant, he says, becomes very complex because the environment does not usually understand the attitude of a child with this condition and holds parents responsible.
It was as a result of an experience in this respect that his foundation was born.
“On a family trip I was about to end up beating a passenger who came in front of the line simply because my son shouted of the excitement of getting on the plane and the guy did not like it, the second (scream) either and the third ( scream) almost gets out of control, “he says.
He remembers that then the lack of capacity, the courage and the frustration of not knowing how to react to these issues paralyzed him, however, that encouraged him to think that he could do more so that in Mexico the issue of autism was not as misunderstood as until then.
“I became a spokesman for the cause, I participated in interviews, I was in the National Palace in the signing of a law that we helped to promote, all within a period of 45 days.”
Gaya’s work has resulted in a foundation that since 2015 has provided direct support to almost 300 families, giving more than 70 conferences in various forums, benefiting more than 1,500 people through various services.
In addition to conducting campaigns, one of them with more than 90 Mexican soccer players and 23 soccer world stars, achieving the adaptation of plays like “The Lion King” for exclusively autistic public and training courses for professionals in order to raise awareness .
“Many of the objectives that we proposed from the beginning were to give visibility to generate public interest, from the medical side, clinic that there is much greater knowledge and that this knowledge is shared,” he says.
However, he argues, many efforts still need to avoid the lack of visibility, empowerment and understand “that inclusion begins at home, in the family environment.”
“The visibility and awareness is the first step of that inclusion,” he concludes. (EFE)