Under the patronage of HRH Crown Prince Alexander’s Foundation for Education and Culture, Rotary Club Belgrade International organized another successful charity concert of virtuoso pianist Stefan Đoković, which was held tonight at the White Palace in Belgrade, Serbia, in the presence and with the support of TRH Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine.

The concert was held with the main goal to collect funds for the needs of Anton Skala Elementary School in Belgrade, to provide audio equipment for the gym. This school is mainly attended by children with autistic spectrum disorder, and it already has good cooperation with the Royal Palace of Serbia. Namely, Anton Skala School has on several occasions received help from the Lifeline Humanitarian Organization of Chicago and the Crown Princess Katherine’s Foundation in Serbia, so this event is a continuation of support for this educational institution.

Together with Their Royal Highnesses, the event was attended by HE José Mauro da Fonseca Costa Couto, the Ambassador of Brazil in Serbia, together with many other distinguished guests from the spheres of business, art, culture, and the public life of Serbia. HRH Crown Prince Alexander as the host officially opened the event, followed by a wonderful performance by Stefan Đoković, Rotary Belgrade International Club member and a virtuoso pianist from Serbia who is currently pursuing PhD studies, who played a selection of pieces of great masters, Debussy, Liszt, Chopin, but also his own works.

“Every kind of support for our children, students, and educational institutions is much needed and very welcome. It was this motive that led me when I established my Foundation for Education and Culture more than 20 years ago. To preserve the tradition of my ancestors in supporting youth, and to carry out my personal vision.

Life is not easy for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder, and it is our obligation and duty to help them. By organizing this event, we are jointly supporting the important work of Anton Skala School. Temple Grandin, a renowned author, and advocate for autism awareness, once said, “My autism is a part of who I am, not an illness or a disease.” These words remind us that autism is not something to be cured or fixed but something that should be understood and embraced. Tonight, we are also advocating and working together to create a world of acceptance and inclusion, by supporting the work of this school”, said HRH Crown Prince Alexander.

The Principal of Anton Skala School, Ms. Natasa Selic Stankovic, thanked the Crown Prince and Crown Princess for their continuous support emphasizing the importance of donations like this. She also presented Their Royal Highness with special charters of gratitude for everything that their Foundations have done to support the work of this institution.

Ms. Olivera Stanić addressed the present om behalf of the Rotary Club Belgrade International, and in her speech emphasized: “It is exactly HRH Crown Prince Alexander’s Foundation for Education and Culture which recognized the importance of the existence and work of the Anton Skala School in providing quality education and life for children with autism and their families, and I hope that we will continue this cooperation in the future. With this humanitarian event, we showed that together we can do great things and leave a positive impact on the world around us.”

Autism is most often defined as a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties in social communication, that is, interaction, as well as limited and repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, and activities. It is most often diagnosed between the ages of 1 and 3 and is significantly more common in boys than in girls, the ratio is 4:1. The way autism manifests for an individual person changes throughout life. Clinically, it is known as an autism spectrum disorder, which means that it has a comprehensive impact on development, that is, on several developmental areas (speech, motor skills, behaviour, learning…) and can affect each of them in different ways and to different extents. Despite numerous research, the exact cause of autism is still unknown. Autism is not a condition that can be considered “curable” or “incurable” because it has no physical symptoms and is not treated with medications. The modern approach to autism dictates that we should distance ourselves from the clinical picture and see autism as a normal variation within human diversity, which should be appreciated and valued.

The elementary school “Anton Skala” was founded in 1964 and is the first school in the Balkans that opened a department for children with autism in 1978 and included them in the education system. It was named after the man who was one of the founders of Yugoslav special education as the first man in the Government of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia responsible for the establishment and development of special schools. There are 96 students, and almost all students are on the autism spectrum. Today, the school represents one of the most reference institutions for the education of students with autism thanks to the results achieved in working with children. The work methods that teachers use in their work are based on the TEACCH philosophy and structured learning. Teachers continuously improve their professional skills and participate in numerous professional international conferences and projects as authors of various papers and programs. Students and teachers are winners of significant awards, and it is interesting to mention that the students at this school are the first people with autism in Europe to record a music CD and are the winners of the 2013 City of Belgrade award in the field of art. Also, former students, otherwise children without parental care, starred in the film “Oasis”, directed by Ivan Ivić, and received numerous awards at festivals around the world, for the best European film and the best amateur actors, as the lead actors. The school constantly strives to provide the best conditions and modern means for the maximum development of the potential of children with autism.