April is the Autism Spectrum Disorder Acceptance Month in Costa Rica. Under the slogan “a happy journey through life”, the aim is to assert the rights of people with this invisible disorder surrounded by prejudice. 

The better known origin of the autism spectrum disorder is due to a neurodevelopmental condition that has consequences on interrelationships, communication skills and cognitive functions, so that social development is affected.

April Autism Spectrum Disorder Acceptance Month

This is a disorder that begins during childhood and lasts throughout life. Communication and behavior are the first to be affected and are not fully accepted by society due to the lack of socioemotional reciprocity, as they tend to be repetitive and restricted. In more severe cases, language is limited and intellectual development is affected.

The diagnosis of autism requires a multidisciplinary approach. The evaluation begins with information from the parents, then observation of the child where there can be an interaction with them and finally clinical diagnosis. There is no medical test that can diagnose, this is a difficult process that often requires consultation with several specialists. Even in gils it is much more complicated since the ASD studies were performed in males and although some behaviors are characteristic, it is believed that girls have more capacity to hide or disguise these behaviors.

In Costa Rica, about 70,000 people have the disorder, where many autistic adults are not diagnosed by the CCSS, a large population is without public policies and it is estimated that more than 50% of young people are unemployed and do not receive higher or professional education. This is where the creation of Awareness Month about this behavioral disorder comes in, which aims to work with the disabling aspects to which they are limited through ignorance. 

Therapy begins at an early age for both the affected person and their caregivers. Understanding and comprehending behaviors is a learning process that involves patience, persistence and love. In Costa Rica, the School of Special Education offers early stimulation treatments, regular education, curricular adaptation support and integrated classrooms. Within the country there are different entities that provide support, although these are independent from the State.

On one side, the Government is trying to enforce the rights of people with the disorder by creating a law that has been repeatedly repealed and even fought for it not to be approved because it does not contain aspects required by this population, since it only seeks to promote full and effective inclusion in society prviding a text almost identical to the law of equality for people with disabilities and, in turn, discarding the financial aid for associations.

Jessica Varela is the founder of BarrileTEA, which was created as an activist association to promote inclusion and to have a greater impact on public policies, with the purpose of being able to participate in disability commissions, always independently. Inspired by her son, her goal goes beyond politics, it is about filling the void that many families have when they do not have the resources to seek help independently.  She describes it as a fraternity that creates a long-term bridge of support and inclusion to raise awareness in communities that these people exist and that empathy should be present on a daily basis with this invisible disability. While these cognitive or behavioral challenges can be difficult, integration is a form of help that outsiders can provide through things as simple as inviting an autistic child to a classmate’s birthday party. Social life should not be limited to the family.

Society plays an important role since the insertion in culture, sports and recreational spaces should be adapted for all people through small changes such as pictograms or even crosswalks with cognitive accessibility. Inclusion is of great importance, this is a word easy to say but difficult to carry out when it comes to work, therapies and education. Social interaction can favor or hinder personal life, the possibility of enjoying it is necessary to prevent the creation of more barriers within the environment in which the person develops. That is to say, emotional well-being exists, depression and anxiety are disorders that appear with greater incidence in autistic people.

Within these barriers, access to jobs and new learning are life experiences that begin to deteriorate and are reduced when adulthood begins. The opportunity to develop independently decreases due to lack of guidance, alternatives, stigmatization and discrimination. Here, education stands out as the basis for future development, where they can communicate their interests and preferences to play an active role in the development of their lives.

This month of acceptance aims to inform society to become aware of the rights of each person with autism spectrum disorder, not to separate or exclude.

In summary:

  • The diagnosis of autism requires a multidisciplinary approach.
  • The entities that provide support are independent of the state.
  • Society plays an important role for the insertion in cultural, sports and recreational spaces.
  • Access to jobs and new learning are life experiences that declined when adulthood begins.







Zelda Walters y Angie Loveday for Sensorial Sunsets