The families of Mérida have to go two or three times a week to the Apnaba center, in Badajoz
Laly Parra Mejías was told in 2017 that her daughter had autism. She started with pervasive developmental disorders very early on. And when she was four years old, they already gave her a name.
She was helpless with the diagnosis and wrote on social networks to contact families in the city in the same situation. “I felt alone and understood that if we joined together we could help each other.”
From those first contacts, Emeritea was born, the Mérida association of families with autism spectrum disorder. Emeritea today is made up of 21 families and Laly Parra acts as president. They serve children between the ages of six and sixteen. And its reason for being is very clear: to ensure that there are specific therapies for autism in Mérida.
The City Council has given them a place for fifteen years and now they need eighty thousand euros to pay for the work
Families from the city with tea children, he explains, go to Badajoz two or three times a week. Specifically to Apnaba, which was created thirty years ago and was the first to offer these therapies.
They attend sessions of forty-five minutes or an hour and a half of speech therapy, psychology, occupational therapy or psychomotricity. “They are beneficial because they are specific therapies for autism. That is why we are very interested in families and we travel 120 kilometers to receive them.”
But they believe it is necessary that there is a similar service in the city that saves them the continuous trips to Badajoz. And that’s why they move. They organize charity festivals and zero lines to raise funds. On Saturday they scheduled a live music marathon at the Temple of Diana, coinciding with the World Autism Awareness Day marked by the United Nations General Assembly every April 2 since 2008.
The specific therapies, says the president, work according to the way of learning that the tea children have. Emeritea already has a place to work in this way, following what Apnaba does in Badajoz. The City Council has given them a space for fifteen years next to Afam, which has recently opened a center to treat Alzheimer’s.
It is a building of the Junta de Extremadura that had been closed for a long time. You have to condition it. It does not have air conditioning or adapted bathrooms. A minimum reform to be able to use it costs eighty thousand euros. That is why Emeritea has started an intense fundraising campaign. As soon as they reach eighty thousand euros they will reform it. “We are calling and will continue to knock on all doors, on all public administrations to help us because we have no capital.” Once they manage to reform the building, they will then be able to agree with the Sepad on the offer of therapies.
So far they have collected fifteen thousand euros. But they hope that Saturday’s solidarity marathon will give them a boost because this type of activity always brings in new collaborators.
Although the event of the Temple of Diana did not seek only an economic purpose. Emeritea families also want to better explain autism to the city. “Let people really know him.”
They have run into a lot of ignorance in these five years. There are still those who believe that it is a disease. «It is a different way of being of our children. With many learning and language difficulties. Schooling helps to overcome these difficulties, but there is no established itinerary.
Some children enroll in special education schools and others in ordinary centers with support teachers. There is also the option of the specific autism classroom at the Dion Casio school. It opened four years ago for six children and it was packed. Right now it is full, which means that there are many children in the city diagnosed with autism who cannot enter this classroom.
And that is another of Emeritea’s open fronts. The association considers that there is a demand for more tea classrooms to be opened in the city’s public schools.
No room in the tea room
In Emeritea there are now five children who could enter Dion Casio’s classroom but cannot because it is full. The alternative of reinforcements in ordinary schools does not solve many problems either, according to what parents have detected.
There are more and more children with special educational needs in the centers and the resources have barely increased. The normal thing, explains Parra, is that a tea child receives two or three hours of specific work so that he learns the subjects in an adapted way. «The problem that we have known this course in Giner de los Ríos comes from that, because there are more and more children with many needs. They do not receive the necessary reinforcement and families notice it ».
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.