Documentary - NOMINEE: Svetlana Bulatova
Photo © Svetlana Bulatova
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Autism is not a disease. No medication can «cure» it. It is a development feature that lasts throughout life. Autism affects communication and relationships with others, perception, and understanding of the world. Difficulties with social interaction can make it hard for people with autism to make friends. However, people with autism often seek friendship and communication — they simply don’t know how to achieve it.
Every person with autism is unique. Each has its special interests, strengths, and difficulties. And if you met one person with autism, you’ve met only one person with autism. My primary mission is to tell in detail about autism and strategies to support such people in Russia.
Today, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 59th child is born with an autism spectrum disorder. In Russia, statistics are also kept, but it’s too careless. For example, 528 children were diagnosed in St. Petersburg, meanwhile a child population of 900,000. There’re no statistics for adults. In the vast majority of cases, the diagnosis of early childhood autism after reaching adulthood is replaced by schizophrenia. Although there is no medical reason for this. Only two years ago, the Ministry of Health of Russia pointed out the inadmissibility of an unjustified change in the diagnosis of people with childhood autism when they reach adulthood. There is no system for helping people with autism. Russian society is not informed about the problem.
The first time I got interested in this subject was when I watched the documentary «Anton is right here» (2012). The main character’s name is Anton Kharitonov. He is a boy with autism. Later, director of the film Lyubov Arkus opened the «Anton is right here» center. This center became the first center in Russia that provides systematic support to people with ASD. I have followed with interest the activities of this center, which is located in my hometown of St. Petersburg. As for me, such a topic as «ASD» is not a quick report. I was invited by this center as a photographer to the camp ‘Summer with meaning” for adults with autism. It was a first step and a great opportunity for me to work more thoughtfully on this subject.
For many of us, changing something in the usual life can be stressful. For people with autism, it can be real torture sometimes. The camp organizers have thought about it and made an individual schedule for each student. There was a change of various activities for students such as creative workshops, sports, boating, socializing, cooking. All these activities should help them to learn new skills. For people with autism, it is very important to learn how to be independent in everyday life and it will help them in the future at home. After the camp, it becomes much easier for them to make contact with new people, take care of themselves in the absence of parents and visit unfamiliar places.
I was thinking that I would spend a few days on the bank of a river, but I got into the territory of pure meaning. Here I was reminded that everyone always has the right to be a person such he is. The motto of this center is “Help us to help them. Help them to help you” – has worked for me. Therefore, by accepting others, in the end, you accept yourself. And it gives strength to move on.
Svetlana Bulatova b.1991 is an independent photographer from St. Petersburg, Russia. Svetlana is a documentary photographer focused on long-term projects. In 2018 Svetlana joined to Women Photograph.