The first autism center for adults has opened in Estonia. The center, founded and working as a private initiative and with the help of donations, is a pilot project.
Although Estonian social system actively works with autistic minors, those who have reached adulthood and often also suffer from a mental disability, lack opportunities - being grounded in a nursing home or their parent's house are often the only available options.
Sirje Norden, who founded the center, told ETV's "Aktuaalne Kaamera" that the new center gives these people a chance to spend time outside of their homes. "It is our job to find and develop that something they are good at," she said, adding that in the future they also hope to teach their customers specific work-related skills.
Norden, who has a 27-year-old autistic son, said that many parents are not prepared to give up on their autistic children and send them to a round-the-clock care home. This is where the new center is able to help. At present, however, it can only accommodate five young people who are supervised by two teachers.
"During the month that we have been operating we have discovered that they are surprisingly good at sorting and packing. It was a surprise for me how accurately they are able to do it, but we have to provide them with tools and facilities," she said.
The opening of the center was supported by more than 200 people who undertook voluntary work or donated something. The city of Tallinn provided the facilities and continues to support the project with transport for the disabled.
Deputy mayor Merike Martinson said that the center cannot function on donations alone.
"I believe that the city of Tallinn should lend the project its helping hand next year through its subsidies program for NGOs," Martinson said. "An initiative like this should be supported so it can continue and never end because of weariness. But I doubt it would anyway, as today the people are full of enthusiasm."