Inclusion of autist children in PEPEs in Argentina

I am Noemi, Missionary-Educator of PEPE Abrojitos; even though I am almost 70 years, I serve the Lord with missions, caring for many children in my city. Our PEPE team is growing as we see how God sends boys and girls with autism to be loved and cared for. In 2018, a family arrived at our PEPE bringing Vicky, their autistic daughter; they lived a block away from the temple where the project works, and these parents were impressed by the affection of the entire PEPE team. How did we help Vicky? We loved her, visited her home, and were patient with her. The other children accepted her for who she was and had no problem sharing with her. But we felt that there was much more that we could do, but we did not know how exactly.

Last year a family from Buenos Aires came to our church. The parents are Anabela and Marcos, professionals from the Federal Penitentiary Service. She is converted and has a sad childhood story, and he is not yet a Christian, with a deep depression. They came with their children: Anabela and Joaco. The move to the city was traumatic for the family due to the separation of relatives while they left their homes and friends from work and school. When Joaco arrived at PEPE, he spent the day screaming, screaming, and screaming. He had a vague look, not understanding what was happening around him. The Missionary-Educators received him with love and patience, just as they did with Vicky. The other children were a little scared. So, we had to explain that everything was fine and that we had to be patient with Joaco and treat him well. Our goal was to encourage a coexistence for a good adaptation of the boy with all of PEPE, and everyone soon adapted to that. We noticed from day one that he liked the animals in a picture of Noah’s ark, so we started to sing some soft songs that he listened to with attention and pleasure.

However, a problem arose: the PEPE team was concerned because they did not know how to deal with him and continue working with the other children simultaneously. God then sent us Romina, the mother of one of the PEPE girls, a Christian who works with special children, and gave the team some indications on how to make Joaco adapt to the PEPE environment. She accompanied our team showing how to carry out the work, teaching each step with plenty of love. Romina highlighted the importance of a personalized follow-up for the child, that we continue to help the other children to carry out their activities while always supervising Joaco. Another aspect she highlighted was that the team should anticipate what is to come, that is, visualize following activities with pictograms, such as routines. The incredible thing was to see how quickly he adapted and how that nervousness from the first day passed.

His father started to study the Bible with a group of men and received Jesus as Savior, graduated as a kinesiologist, became a Physical Education teacher, and they could see the hand of God working in many things. He continues to be accompanied by his state of depression but with professional assistance from his new Christian family. It has also helped his son, Joaco, that attends Bible school on Saturdays and sings PEPE songs. It is great to see how he finds his way to interact with the other children.

All boys and girls need to be loved, respected, cared for, valued, and taught with love and patience so that they learn to live with autistic children. At PEPE, we can make a difference to change generations!

License Noemí Rebollo de Boretsky – director of PEPE Abrojitos, Argentina

Translated by Victor Baptista

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