A Day Center Illuminating the Lives of Autistic Children
In the quiet town of Kalvarija, a remarkable woman named Jurgita Sinkevičiūtė had a vision. It was a vision born from the daily challenges she faced while raising a son with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This vision has since blossomed into the “Aš ypatingas” (I’m Special) organization and a children’s day center, tailored to provide essential services for autistic children and their families. Today, the center shines as a beacon of hope, uniting like-minded individuals who share a common purpose.
A Mother’s Love Transforms a Dream
A few years ago, Jurgita inherited a house, and she pondered its purpose. The arduous journey of being a mother to an autistic child, filled with countless therapies and rehabilitation sessions, drove her to seek a suitable educational environment for her son and others like him. She explains, “Upon receiving the autism diagnosis, the hardest part for parents is coming to terms with it and finding a supportive environment for their child. In 2019, I founded the ‘Aš ypatingas’ organization. While a children’s day center already existed in Kalvarija, it was not enough for all the children, especially those with special needs. I decided to put my inherited property to public use and started the process of establishing a licensed children’s day center. I financed the facility with my own savings and bank loans. The realization of my dream was made possible with the help of many good-hearted individuals who supported this idea through their labor, kind words, and donations.”
A Journey of Challenges and Creativity
The journey to start the center and equip it was no easy task, involving paperwork, hiring staff, designing the environment, and managing financial hurdles. But Jurgita viewed these challenges with a creative perspective. She explains, “Throughout this time, we faced numerous challenges, from preparing the necessary documents for setting up the facility to searching for employees, creating a suitable environment, and financial difficulties. However, I enjoy looking at these issues through a creative lens. What’s most important is that ‘Aš ypatingas’ Children’s Day Center was born out of love. We now have a dedicated team of highly intelligent and creative staff members who understand the unique needs and personalities of the children they nurture. Through various projects, we strive to improve and maintain the center, engage volunteers, and introduce our work to Lithuanian society. Most importantly, we are here for our children.”
A Home-Like Haven
“At the Children’s Day Center, we’ve managed to create a home-like environment, reflecting the way we live. We host various activities in dedicated rooms, inviting specialists in various fields to help develop the children’s skills. We also have a relaxation room where children can unwind after their lessons, interact with other kids, and play. Together, we conduct lessons, engage in sports, and during the summer, we organize day camps where we climb, swim, and work together. The greatest joy is seeing the children’s radiant eyes, their positive emotions, and the wonder on their faces as they experience something new,” says Jurgita.
The Best Reward
Jurgita’s work at the center is more than a job; it’s her passion. The most rewarding aspect of her work is that children willingly come to the center even on weekends. Over time, all the center’s visitors have become a tight-knit community that genuinely cares about each other’s well-being. Jurgita shares a heartwarming story, “I remember the words of a little boy who attended our summer camp. He arrived on the first day, looked around, and said, ‘Auntie, this is a kids’ paradise!’ Another touching moment was when one boy accidentally broke his phone screen during an educational activity. Although the phone was still usable, the child was very upset and crying. What touched me the most was seeing the other children, who had played separately until then, coming together to console him.”
An Inclusive Oasis
The “Aš ypatingas” Children’s Day Center embodies the concept of inclusion. Jurgita says, “This initiative is based on the concept of integration because we welcome all children. In practice, they get along beautifully and learn from each other. This is essential not only for me but for society as a whole. We undertake various activities to provide support to everyone, and we are diverse and original. We are always looking for new ways to engage and have fun together. I see changes in my own son, in his behavior, and in his studies. Sometimes, I sit down with a cup of coffee, though that’s a rare luxury, and I reflect on how it all began, how the building and yard looked, and how I was at that time. So much has been done, everything has fundamentally changed, and I have met many interesting people. It gives me such a wonderful feeling, even though I can’t put it into words.”
Jurgita’s journey, from a mother’s love to a visionary leader, exemplifies the power of determination and the difference one person can make in the lives of many. The “Aš ypatingas” Children’s Day Center stands as a testament to the unwavering dedication and boundless compassion that fuels Jurgita’s work, illuminating the lives of autistic children and their families with hope and joy. The center not only provides essential services but also fosters a warm and inclusive community where every child is cherished and encouraged to grow. Jurgita’s dream has truly become a reality, and it continues to inspire us all to make a positive impact in our communities.