This photo essay is about the life of the residents of Miskolc Foundation for People with Autism, in 2016, Hungary. It is a part of a larger project, titled "Merging Realities", consisting of other visual material for MAACRAFT, which is a social workshop for people with autism, operating at the foundation in Miskolc.
Autism is a kind of behavioral dysfunction with genetic background, that appears in changes in perception and social interaction. For these reasons, people with autism are often in need of a protected environment.
People with autism realize at an early age that they differ from others, but they do not necessarily understand why. Without any means of comparison, they are not aware of them having an altered perception.
Autism does not have a cure, but in the right environment, with customized care, these people are capable of living a happy and creative life.
The Autism Foundation of Miskolc (Miskolci Autista Alapítvány - MAA) is a home created in 1992 by parents of children with autism, in a town called Miskolc, in Hungary. There are currently 50 residents of the foundation, who live in customized rooms, and are provided with daily freetime and therapical activities, coordinated by a staff of experts.
Miskolc is a town in Nort-Eastern Hungary, with a population of 160.000. The foundation is located on the edge of town, surrounded by a forest.
Gabi is mostly interested in astrology and astronomy. Along with a number of books, and printouts on the topic, he built a LEGO model with which he is able to simulate the change of daylight throught the seasons.
Zsolti prefers to eat only with cutlery with rectangular ends.
Gyuszi only visits the foundation during daytime. He commutes on his own, and works around the garden. He returns to his family in the afternoon.
Nóri is one of the most important artists of the project called Autistic Art, which provides therapic drawing sessions, and finds a market for the created artwork to support homes for autistic people. Her most common subjects is the people around her.
There are many special programs happening at MAA, one of them is MAACRAFT social workshop and garden, where people with autism create high quality design textiles and furniture.
By marketing the items created in MAACRAFT project, the residents of MAA not only improve their abilities, but earn money as well, becoming a productive part of society.
In the gardens and foil tents of MAA, the residents grow spices and vegetables that they use for their meals, and sell the rest, this way supporting their community financially.
There's also a therapic garden, where with the help of signs, and regular guided sessions, the residents of MAA are able to get closer to their environment.
Even though people with autism live in the same world as people without autism, the world percieved by them may be extremely different from ours. There is many evidence that people with autism experience many unusual - at least from a non-autistic point of view - sensations.
When people with autism need to process a lot of stimuli at the same time, they divide these to many different parts. This way, a percieved person can equal a scent, or a kind of movement. Because of this kind of fractured perception, autistic people may need more time to adjust to their changing environment.
Certain senses of people with autism may be much stronger, or weaker than what is considered "normal". A person with hypersensitive seeing, for this reason, may see small flying particles in the air first before anything else.
The excitement by some senses my trigger a kind of "resonance" with that experiense, when the person "becomes one" with the percieved phenomena. This is often described as a deep, vibrant feeling.
Types of behaviour that would be considered as a disatvantage in the world of "normal" people is accepted and tolerated in the community of MAA. In this sense, theirs is a better society than of the "normal" people.
There is no clear line between the helping staff and the autistic residents, as they all take part in the daily routine tasks of the foundation such as cleaning, cooking, etc.
Pictograms help the residents in their daily activities.
The gym is the place for daily movement improvement sessions, musical activities and dog-therapy.
Many events are held within the foundation, which are very important for every residents. These include Mother's Day, the Carnival, Christmas, etc. Here, Timi's learning a poem that she's going to perform for the Carnival.
Autism, as a phenomena consists of a variety of subjective ways to experience reality. These differences - even if in a less concentrated way - are applicable to the world of non-autistic people. By understanding them, we will understand reality better.
It seems that people with autism percieve everything "as they are", without it's context, which may mean they don't "understand" what they experience. Non-autistic people are incapable of percieving anything in its full and raw reality, since our brain actively distorts and contextualizes everything we experience.
Studies show that autism does not affect only a small minority, but is an issue of a much larger scale.
Understanding people who experience and live another world is one of our basic duties as empathic beings. We don't only need to understand them, but we need to talk about it, as we'll also become more by this.