There are many organizations in Oregon-Portland, which offer support for people with disabilities. Most of them are proud of giving support to all categories of people with disabilities. However, I am interested in the conditions they have for people with autism. The organization of my choice is On-the-Move Community Integration. It seems interesting to me because this organization is different from others. Comparing to other programs which are site-based, On-the-Move is a community-based program (On-the Move Community Integration, n.d.). Its activities occur every day in different location, which may be problematic to autists. Thus, I decided to find out how this community deals with people with autism.
As I did not know where its next activity would occur, I decided to call its executive director. She appeared to be a pleasant and talkative person and told me a lot about conditions they have for autists. As it turned out, many autists participate in the events of this community. Moreover, the community inclusion specialists do everything possible to simplify the integration of autists in the community. Since the organization has partnerships with Oregon Zoo, animal shelters, and other animals-centered programs, autists can benefit from spending time with animals. Animal therapy has proven to have a positive effect on children with autism spectrum disorders (Cohen, 2014). In fact, animals help them develop significant social and emotional skills. Apart from volunteering for animal welfare organizations, On-the-Move volunteers also do cooking projects. People with autism always take pleasure in such projects. On the other hand, there are many barriers for people with autism in the community, as well. The activities of On-the-Move Community are unpredictable and occur predominantly outdoors. It may cause extra portion of anxiety to autists. Besides, there are many volunteers participating in each event. For people with autism, it may create discomfort as they prefer small communities to the large ones. Community membership of On-the-Move involves such activities as exercising, hiking, and visiting art galleries and farmer’s markets. All these require engagement in disorganized and challenging world. For people with autism, it many become a barrier as they perceive streets and public places as noisy and unpredictable. The phone conversation revealed that On-the-Move Community Integration provides assistance for people with autism, but the barriers outnumber potential benefits of this organization.
After phone conversation, I realized another dimension of life of people with autism. I realized that autists have more limitations than I thought before. Not only they have special needs but also not all organizations are capable of meeting them. I have heard only good references about On-the-Move Community Integration. Therefore, I sincerely believed that they could provide all the necessary conditions for any kind of disabled people. When the executive director was listing all the benefits of their organization, I thought that it could be quite a good place for the autists. However, gradually, I understood that autists could only volunteer in those projects that occur each day at the same location. Since autists have difficulties with friendship, cooperation, and handling unstructured parts of the day, they need small community and predictable schedule (Mills and Francis, 2010). They are at a loss in a large number of people. Volunteering outdoors with a group of different people is the opposite experience. It requires them to be flexible and open to other volunteers. Considering peculiarities of autists, it may be difficult to such individuals. Hence, meaningful and healthy environmentally responsible recreation is a good idea, but not for everybody. Now, I know that dealing with autists is special, because they do not fit into every organization. They need more individual approach than other disabled people.