Country, Date of election
Michal Wroniszewski, a physician, is creating a national movement to accept disabled or “special” individuals as integrated members of society in Poland, with a primary focus on autistic and mentally retarded children and their families.
Many disabilities are poorly understood, especially autism, which is a central part of Michal’s focus. There is little preparation for teachers to work with specific learning needs, so that many “special” children drop out of the educational system or never enter it at all. The families of disabled children often experience deep crises of concern about how to care for their children’s needs, helpless feelings and pervasive loneliness. Their living standard generally falls and divorce is common. Recent estimates show that approx. 30 000 people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder live in Poland and only around 1-2% are employed.
In the first year of the SYNAPSIS Foundation, associates, teachers, and parents have been trained while new diagnostic methods have been studied. In 1999, the foundation built the Centre for Autistic Children in Warsaw, which took 300 families under its custody. In 2005 building began on the Work & Home Center for adults. In 2007, the foundation formed the Atelier of Different Things SYNAPSIS. For over 20 years, the SYNAPSIS Foundation has been providing a full spectrum of services dedicated to people with autism including diagnosis, therapy, counselling, direct care, advocacy and more. It has led a few projects providing support for the employment of adults with ASD.
Michał Wroniszewski is a senior member of the Polish health care establishment, and he is building a public movement to accept and care for children who are different–and their families–by changing public attitudes. As a part of his commitment to changing the public mind, Michał is showing that autistic and mentally retarded kids, as well as others with disabilities, have far more capacity to develop than is generally believed, depending on the quality of love and patience they receive; and that the families of such children merit special appreciation and support from their communities.
His vision incorporates the insight that when public awareness shifts, public policy and national budgets are likely to follow, and that it costs less to include the individual with disability into the society than to pay for maintaining him or her as a dependent “outsider”. He focuses on the needs of autistic and mentally retarded children, though his project is readily adaptable to any group that needs care. He developed an innovative model for a Social and Vocational Activation Programme for People with Asperger Syndrome and High-functioning Autism and is looking for potential employers and organizations that are willing to implement this Model.
Michał has an autistic son, Dominik, who was born in 1982. Since that time, Michał has dedicated himself to creating a humane and efficient service network for Polish special needs children and their families.