Zgodba na spektru: Kalle Ristikartano – strokovni delavec

I am an international trainer and odd-jobs man in the fields of education, youth and social work originally from Finland. In my 25 years in the youth field I have worked and volunteered for Scouts, YMCA, European Youth Programmes, Inclusion Finland, Caravan Circus Network among 20 other organizations doing all from cooking in camps to being president and CEO of different organisations.

Nordic view on ASPI

Progressive, innovative association with women in leading positions, strong values based on equality, empowerment and welfare of all in a country of few people, lots of nature with spruces and strong winter Olympics team. Has a very Scandinavian flare, doesn’t it? So to find it from the North Balkans in a smaller city in the middle of an agrarian suburb was a bit of a surprise for me in 2019. 

Association ASPI has strength as in a small village – as we say in Finland – having an effect way bigger than its size suggests. Being featured in major news medias in Slovenia, getting recognition for its work from National Agency of EU’s Erasmus+ – programme for its work of training European youth workers and being featured in an international Inclusion & Diversity Forum are just external indicators of the great work that this Association is doing with its workers, volunteers and especially with its users. 

My own affiliation with ASPI is mostly related to the international training courses organised in cooperation with the Youth Center of Domžale. Through those I have had the privilege to meet both the multitalented pool of users of the Association as its very dedicated workers. I have also had the chance to see first hand the positive and energising impact all of them can have to groups of international youth workers.

The way ASPI works having its users at the core of its activities and trusting to their knowledge, capabilities and experience embodies the values and aims of the international treaties and movements on human rights. In my 20 years working with different groups with fewer opportunities, it is more a rule that public bodies and NGO’s approach people like those with autism as objects of actions instead of giving them the voice and seat at the table deciding on their lives and things that matter to them. ASPI is one of the NGO’s changing that by giving its users the space and guidance on how to take control of their lives and their Association.

Having the chance to discuss in depth about the challenges of ASPI with some of its workers and users, I know that there is a lot of work to do. The obstacles that people with autism still face even in European context are many and that puts a heavy strain on people with autism themselves and on their families and people working with them. Things are changing, but the speed of change often feels far too slow and the setbacks hurt bad. 

Against that background the supportive and open atmosphere that the community of ASPI has been able to create is ever more important. There is always more to do and better ways of doing it, but the basics of making a better world are simple: Change requires time, cooperation, openness, safety and innovation. How I have seen people working in ASPI that base is strong and I am confident that the changes you work for will come.


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