AS AUTISM Awareness Month draws closer, the Eastern Cape branch of Autism South Africa (ASA) and Autism Sinethemba in East London are gearing up to ensure a successful and well-supported campaign.
Running throughout the month of April, both ASA and Autism Sinethemba will be running a series of events generating awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The Autism Big Walk, taking place on April 20 along the Esplanade, will be the main awareness event for the month.
Starting at the Wishing Well at the Orient Theatre at 10am, this annual event has no entry fee, with all encouraged to join in and to wear blue in support of autism.
Hands on Autism Two training sessions will also be held from April 17 to 19 for caretakers who have already completed their Hands on Autism One training.
The Autism Sinethemba preschool will hold open days every school day throughout the month of April, encouraging visitors to interact with staff and the children.
“We want to inform the public about our daily challenges as teachers and parents to autistic children, as well as create acceptance and understanding for these children and their parents,” ASA regional development officer and Autism Sinethemba founder, Antoinette Bruce-Alexander said.
Bruce-Alexander indicated that parents and caregivers of autistic children are often criticised and labelled as “bad parents” because an autistic child’s challenging behaviour is often seen as naughtiness.
“Looking after a child with autism is really hard work both physically and emotionally.“
“The mom, dad, granny, caregiver, teacher has enough on his/her plate to deal with, they do not need criticism, they need help, kindness, empathy and most of all respect,” said Bruce-Alexander, who is also the mother of an autistic son, Daniel.
According to ASA, one in every 110 children is affected by autism internationally.In South Africa, about 7665 children diagnosed with autism are born every year.
Emphasising the need for greater awareness and support for autistic children and their parents, Bruce- Alexander said the number of diagnosed children with autism continues to rise.
“We are limited in terms of educational placement, skills centres and special ECD centres, adult care skills centres and residential facilities for adults. Autism is not curable. Parents and caregivers need to make provisions for their children’s old age when we are no longer able to look after them,” Bruce-Alexander said.
“Autism is still an ‘invisible’ disorder.“Our children look normal, it is only once you interact with them that their challenges will be noticed.”
For information or for anyone interested in supporting any autism awareness events, contact Bruce- Alexander on 072-678-2452 or easterncape@ autismsouthafrica.org