The Society for Autistic Children of Serbia was founded by a group of mothers and experts in 1977. Later, with the expansion of the network, it was renamed to National Society of Serbia for Assistance to Persons with Autism, and in 2014 it changed its name to Association for Assistance to Persons with Autism of Serbia.
The Association for Assistance to Persons with Autism of Serbia is an organization whose membership and professional team are made up of parents of children with autism. Voting rights in Association’s governing bodies are held by parents, who make decisions exclusively in the interest of children with autism. In 2022, the Association and its 15 member organizations will celebrate their 45th anniversary, and on this occasion, with the support of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs – Department for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities, a book entitled “Parents Write” was published and it will present the life of families of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) through the stories about the life experiences of parents.
The Association was founded with the aim of improving the status and quality of life of people with autism, providing various types of support and assistance to people with autism and their families, primarily in the field of human rights and new treatments of proven effectiveness, regarding treatment models and scientific interventions in the treatment of children with ASD. The position of president of the Association is performed by Nevena Petrovic Jojic.
The Association pursues its goals through networking, advocacy, dialogue, partnerships, public action, information providing, research and publishing activities.
During its decades-long existence and work, the Association has implemented numerous projects, and to the greatest extent the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs – Department for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities has recognized the importance of the implementation of projects intended for persons with autism.
For years, the Association has had a clear vision of the activities that should be implemented in order to improve the quality of life of people with autism and their families, including recreational-therapeutic programs, work occupational projects, as well as media campaigns.
The projects implemented by the Association, including the “Weekend program”, “Family assistant” and “Respite”, fall into the group of innovative support services projects. The importance of these projects implemented throughout Serbia is reflected in support and assistance arrangement that enables families to take respite while their children are well cared for in an adequate environment, after which families go back to their everyday life with their children.
The Association introduced certain innovative services, as a direct support to persons with autism and their families, including help line, online counselling and medical rooms, while maintaining its notable publishing activity within which it has published, inter alia, two books authored by young people with autism, a book entitled “Parents write”, Handbook on the rights of people with autism and their families, Emergency Department Behavioral Guide for People with Autism, several different brochures.
Art and young people with autism
In 2003, a group of children with ASD began to actively participate in cultural activities that the then National Society of Serbia for Assistance to Persons with Autism, with the support of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, implemented in the framework of the music workshops. Workshop participants were from 6 to 15 years of age, and the focus was on school events organized mostly on the occasion of celebrating holidays and the end of the school year. What distinguished these workshops, at the very beginning and equally today, are the dedication and support of parents and their faith in their children.
Over the years, this music workshop has grown and developed in every sense. Children have become young, talented people who express themselves in the best possible way through music, dance, acting and art in general. The desire and need to present the potentials of people with ASD were born in 2007, and over time the traveling music workshop visited all day care centres in Belgrade and Serbia, as well as many other social welfare institutions. Participation in the traditional “Notes for All” festival held in Kragujevac was a special challenge for this group of young people.
In 2009, the “Fairyland Song” CD, unique in the world, was produced as a regular edition of PGP RTS record company, and thereafter promoted at the Terazije Theatre.
After that, the idea of the first inclusive musical was born, and materialized in the “Magical Journey”, for which leading actors received City of Belgrade Annual Award for Youth Art Creativity.
The group of now young artists had their first encounter with professional theatre in 2013, when the inclusive musical “Magical Journey”, directed by Djordje Makarevic, premiered. The leading roles were plaid by young talented persons with autism.
At the 40th International Festival of Alternative and New Theatre in Novi Sad, “Magical Journey” musical had the honor of closing the festival. Soon after, the play received an invitation to perform at the National Theatre in Bitola and thus promote its importance beyond the borders of our country.
In 2014, on the occasion of 2 April, World Autism Awareness Day, based on the lyrics written by Luka Mijović, a boy with autism, the song “Original” was composed, and sung by related young artists.
In 2014, a music video for the song “Light it up blue” was produced, specially made on the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day. The title of the song is the slogan of the “Light it up blue” campaign, within which, on the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day, in many world capitals, the most important institutions are illuminated with blue lights, as a sign of support for people with autism. At the Beldox festival in 2015, the documentary film “Fairyland Song”, which follows the daily life and activities of young artists, directed by Vladimir Ilic, was shown. The film was produced in cooperation with the Majdan C All these projects were implemented as program activities of the Serbian Society of Autism, with the support of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs and other donors.hildren’s Cultural Centre.
In the same year, cooperation with the Nebograd (SkyCity) association began, when VIS Nebograd musical band was created, composed of persons with various developmental disabilities and professional musicians. A very important segment in the artistic activities of this band is the BUNT (Belgrade New Art Territory) festival. Within the program of this unique festival, already nine years, a concert with the symbolic name “Together” has had an important place, where the guests were exceptional musicians, such as Momcilo Bajagic, Rade Radivojevic, Dragan Ilic, Bilja Krstic and others. Also, VIS Nebograd participated in the New Year’s concerts of the Children’s Philharmonic held on the Sava Centre’s Big Stage.
Nebograd, in cooperation with the KOLO Ensemble, also produced “We Are All the Same” Cabaret on the theme of film music. The premiere was held on 3 December 2017, in the Dusko Radovic Little Theatre, on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and the implementation of the project was supported by the Radio Television of Serbia public broadcaster, which recorded the cabaret and broadcast it within the cultural program.
In 2018, VIS Nebograd had the honour to participate in the ceremonial opening of the J=EDNAKI (Equal) Fair organized by the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs.
Also, at the invitation of the organizers and founders, VIS Nebograd had the opportunity to participate in the ANCA – Naturally Autistic World Festival held in Bled in 2018 under the slogan: “Join us – Discover the culture of people with autism”. It was also Serbia’s first participation in a festival that promotes the cultural activities of people with autism from all over the world.
The following year, in 2019, the Musical Time Machine concert was held, where young artists tried their hands at various musical genres, ranging from folk and ethnic music to foreign hits.
In cooperation with the National Organization of Persons with Disabilities and many celebrities who supported the project, VIS Nebograd recorded the song “We Can Do Everything”, and the successful cooperation continued in 2021 when the song “Our Two Hearts” was recorded.
In 2021, the theatre play “Opanak”-Maker’s Journey (Serbian traditional footwear), a comedy piece with dancing and singing, was also produced. This time the topic was Serbian tradition, and young talented artists, people with disabilities, with the peer support of their colleagues from cultural and art society KUD Luca, took us through Serbian customs and traditions.
In 2022, a unique inclusive folklore ensemble consisting of people with disabilities and professional dancers was formed in the framework of KUD Luce.
From its first encounter with the stage, until today, this artistic group has been testifying to the power of music, dance, theatre and art in general. These young artists have their mission in creating an environment in which art will be accessible to everyone, because everyone has the right to art, both as a consumer and as a participant in creative processes. It is therefore very important to enable people with disabilities to create, be creative, show their talent and creativity, because that is the only way to jointly create an environment accessible to everyone.
Jovana Lazic was born on 11 January 1996 in Belgrade. Even at a very young age, she showed an inclination towards music, especially singing. By the age of 3, she was diagnosed with autism, as a developmental disorder, but this did not hinder her from further progressing, maturing and expressing herself through music.
She is a long-time member of VIS Nebograd, composed of people with developmental disabilities and professional musicians. As group member or individually, she had the opportunity to be involved in many artistic projects that promote inclusion. Also, in last years she performed at various festivals, such as “Art zone for everyone”, BUNT festival and, as a guest – soloist, at the concerts of the KOLO Ensemble.
In the last three years, she has been taking solo singing lessons with Natasa Jovic – Trivic, principal Opera artist of the Opera of the National Theatre in Belgrade.
She held her first solo concert on 28 June 2019 at the National Theater Museum, as part of the cycle “We present the youth”. For this concert, she was awarded the City of Belgrade Annual Award for Youth Art Creativity.
In the 2021/2022 school year, she enrolled in the regular primary music school “Dr Vojislav Vuckovic” in Belgrade.
Gruja Stanickov was born on 24 April1998 in Novi Sad. Very early on, he faced delayed speech and communication development. He has a talent for drawing and painting, as well as a great power of visual memory. He graduated from the “Jovan Ducic” Elementary School in Petrovaradin and the “Bogdan Suput” Design School in Novi Sad. He had two solo exhibitions, in Novi Sad and Belgrade, and several group exhibitions. His artistic handwriting is featured by freedom of movement and drawing lightness, and his paintings are dominated by a diverse earthy colors palette. He likes to travel, get to know people and their customs. He shows a special preference for sacral facilities and spiritual tradition. He is always in the mood for socializing and adventures.