Photo: Rafael Salvador

PIPA (Projeto de Integração Pró-Autista)

Established in São Paulo, Brazil, in 2016, PIPA’s facility provides special education to 40 autistic children aged between 5 and 15, supported by their parents and professional staff. The majority of the professional staff are psychologists, along with physical therapists and physical education instructors, but there are no educators among the staff. Each morning, the professional staff hold a discussion to look back on the day-to-day changes in the children and effects of the special education on them, so that these can be reflected in that day’s activities. Rather than being focused on curing a disease, the objective of the therapy is to provide the children with encouragement, in order to further their learning. As such, it would be fair to say that our practices are very unusual in Brazil, where drug therapy is the principal approach.
PIPA was born in 2006. Impressed after hearing a lecture by special education expert Takako Saegusa, the parents of autistic children, after much effort, launched the “Blue Sky Class” at a temple in São Paulo. It was initially a small class of just 4 autistic children, but eventually developed into a fully-fledged association, with the instructors’ salaries supported by ENKYO, the Japanese–Brazilian Aid Association. A move to a new location led to an increase in the number of users. Today, we provide special education free of charge via Brazil’s Unified Health System, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, and aim to spread PIPA’s practices throughout the country in the future.
Our basic policy on special education is to maintain mental balance through physical activity. The morning starts with running and we offer many programs based on physical activity, including music, obstacle races, and pogo stick hopping. Close collaboration with the children’s parents is a distinctive feature of PIPA’s approach and we attach importance to the involvement of the whole family, offering guidance on how to interact with their child and setting exercises for the parents and children to tackle together.