THE third annual Big Walk for Autism saw schools, teachers, parents and community members coming together to raise awareness of children living with autism.
The event, which formed part of Autism Awareness Month, took place at the Orient Theatre, East London, on Friday morning.
The walk from the Wishing Well to the lifesaver’s shack and back was aimed at helping to raise acceptance of children living with autism.
Autism South Africa regional development officer and Big Walk organiser Antoinette Bruce- Alexander, said another purpose of the event was to make people aware that autism was a disorder, not a disease.
“The children just need to be educated differently, learn differently,” she said. “People shouldn’t be scared of it, it is a disorder and learning function that affects the brain – it is not a disease.”
Participating in the walk were College Street Primary School, Autism Sinethemba Early Intervention School Centre, Parklands Special School, Educare students from the Buffalo City TVET College (BCC), parents, as well as community members.
Bonga Qubani, whose child has autism, said it was hurtful when she was told three years ago that her child had autism.
“I ignored it for six months before getting up and seeking help. The biggest problem of having an autistic child is the difficulty to communicate and their changing behaviour. I am also still learning, but I would advise other parents of autistic children to seek help and try to understand your child’s needs,” Qubani said.
College Street Primary School principal Craig Graham said one of the main challenges for autistic children was the lack of understanding in communities. “It is events and months like these that create general awareness.
“Through this event we are saying we are here and are a part of the community. It is also important to show these kids as well that they are part of society,” Graham said.
The previously mainstream school had one class for pupils with autism. It will now cater only for pupils with autism, with its mainstream classes being phased out.