Felix Daub works as a management consultant and volunteers for the Autismus Landesverband Berlin e.V. “People are different, they have strengths and weaknesses,” he says. Especially in the case of people with impairments, however, the focus is usually on their supposed weaknesses. He thinks: That has to change!
The commitment came to me. My sister was diagnosed with Asperger’s autism and my mother was already involved in the Autism Association. The association has been around for more than 50 years. It was founded by parents of affected children – at that time there were no state support options and not much was known about the subject. At some point, various professionals joined in. In the meantime, our association has more than 80 employees.
We must succeed in bringing more people from the selfish, toxic side to the tolerant side. Because the strength of our society is measured by how we treat the weakest. This requires a greater awareness of the issues of diversity, equal opportunities and inclusion. I believe this would change if we were to create the conditions for this at a very early stage, in daycare centers and schools.
What sets us apart is our holistic offering: We run two curative education groups, an outpatient therapeutic program for children and adolescents, supervised individual living and a residential group for adult autistic people with comprehensive care needs. We also have a low-threshold counseling center for families and institutions that have or care for autistic children and adolescents. We help families to classify the diagnosis and point out which support options are available and which of them make sense in the individual case. We also offer workshops and information opportunities for affected persons and professionals. Affected families find a community with us in which they can exchange ideas with other affected persons and find professional advice.
Unfortunately, we are not able to offer adult counseling at the moment because we do not have the funding. We would have the necessary experience and the need is huge. We hope that we will be able to offer such a service again in the future, perhaps in cooperation with other institutions or initiatives.
Of course, people with autism have certain limitations that cannot always be taken into account in the regular school or work routine. But the spectrum is wide: some are hardly impaired, many learn a profession and live completely independently. But even those who are more severely impaired can pursue a normal everyday life if the appropriate structures are created. Building a bridge into “mainstream society” is always possible. It’s not about what people with autism can’t do, but what they can do. My sister, for example, is the most helpful person I know. We want to convey this message to the relatives, but also to the wider society: people are just different. Let’s accept that and look on the bright side. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Particularly in the case of people in need of care, however, we always look only at the weaknesses. But it’s not about managing supposed limitations or disabilities, it’s about actively shaping them, about recognizing and promoting abilities.
If friends or acquaintances and their families are affected by the diagnosis of autism: First listen, take an interest, don’t step back. And in general: Everyone can set aside at least a little bit of time in their daily lives to inform themselves and make themselves aware: There is another life than the one I lead, and that is also part of our society. If you have the time, I can only recommend from my own experience that you get involved in volunteer work. It gives you a whole new perspective on your own life and it simply gives you a good feeling to see how diverse our society is.
We are always happy to receive donations or volunteers. With the donations we can finance activities for which we do not receive funding, or we can buy toys and furnishings for the children. Volunteers can support us on a regular basis or on a one-off basis, for example by organizing a summer party.