Meet Jairo: 22 years old, born and raised in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Speaks Spanish. Regular attendee at “Los Pipitos”, a school for children/adults with developmental conditions. Has high-functioning autism bordering on Asperger’s. Enjoys life fully. Loves naps and running errands. Makes piñatas.
Jairo is the individual I was fortunate enough to interview here in Nicaragua. He’s quite the character. As we sat down to film the interview in the courtyard of the school he attends I didn’t know what direction our interview would take. Actually, I never know what direction any interview will take, but interviewing someone with autism amplifies my sense of not knowing.
Our interview started like any other interview I film:
Name: Jairo. Check.
Location: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Check!
Tell me about yourself…
This is where things get interesting. I asked Jairo a bunch of questions, having already talked with him about what we’d talk about before the interview started. Before I know it he goes on a tangent – simply naming places that he’s been that I haven’t. After about 3 minutes of him listing places, in order by distance from San Juan del Sur he finally pauses, looks up at me and asks if he did a good job.
I manage to get him to briefly mention the things that he does at Los Pipitos before I turn the camera off, but I can clearly tell he’s itching to get back inside and work on his piñata that he didn’t finish the day before. He then said one last farewell to the camera and the interview was over. It was short and sweet.
Jairo wasn’t the only one at Los Pipitos with autism though. There was young boy named who has autism and Cerebral Palsy.
Like Jairo, this boy, who will remain namelss, recieves the support of the local “Los Pipitos” center, however, this support is not nearly enough to actually improve their condition at all. The young boy with multiple conditions, for instance, spends most of his day being told to write his name in his notebook – a task that, after a brief glance through his notebook, has never been accomplished, and that seems to be the extent of the education he receives. They do however, have spend part of the day making art as well, but there is no case specific therapy. In fact, the woman who runs the center didn’t even know what autism was, and hadn’t heard of it. Her primary focus is to get the kids/adults who show up at the center to make Piñatas to sell a the market on Fridays and getting the ones who can write to transcribe sentences, even though they don’t know what the words mean most of the time.
The center is a step in the right direction, but much more training and support is needed. Especially since one center, with a single staff member, has a “class” of individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and some who are deaf and mute. I imagine working there has to be difficult and being having only one staff member is probably why it is more of an adult daycare than a center for treatment or the improvement of the human condition.
Still, it saddens me that the woman in charge of the facility didn’t know what autism is.