Autism: What parents of sufferers should know

2015-04-30 13:44
Some children who are living with Autism singing during the Autism Awareness Month, at Noluthando School for Deaf, Khayelitsha, on Monday.

Mbongiseni Maseko

Some children who are living with Autism singing during the Autism Awareness Month, at Noluthando School for Deaf, Khayelitsha, on Monday. PHOTO: Mbongiseni Maseko

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Parents who live with Autistic children have been empowered with information to help them understand better ways of raising them.

The awarenes session took place at Noluthando School for Deaf, in Khayelitsha, on Monday.

The event, which formed part of Autism Awareness Month, was an eye-opener for the parents as they learnt first hand about the condition of their children.

Autism is described as a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour.

The signs typically develop gradually, but some children with autism will reach their developmental milestones at a normal pace and then regress.

Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood

The signs for Autism are mostly noticed before a child turns three years old.

Keri Delport, education and outreach manager for Autism Western Cape said one in 68 children are diagnosed with Autism and that they have noticed a rise of the number of children who live with the disorder in the province, particularly, in recent months.

Delport said the number rose from 10 to 16 percent and that at least 10 children are diagnosed with the disorder weekly in the province.

“It is important to know what Autism is. The brain of an Autistic child works differently and the information that they get is processed differently in their minds.

Parents should not take blame if their child is diagnosed as autistic.

It is also non-preventable.

Deloprt said some parents held the hope that their children would be cured of the condition.

“it is not like that. It is a life-long condition,” Delport said.

Delport said some of the signs are that the children avoid making eye contact with other people.

“They struggle to form relationship with other people including children their own age, or they always isolate themselves from other people,

They do not take kindly to changes in their routine because they have a repetitive streak,

But they are honest with what they like or dislike and that they are also passionate.

She said parents should find special ways of communicating with children who have the condition such as avoiding using long sentences, showing them what they want them to do and also give them some time to process the information.

Ntomboxolo Mlungu, 32, mother of Liyabona Mlungu, 7, said she was initially in the dark about the condition which saw her falling for wrong advise that her son, who was two years old at the time, was bewitched.

“I lost a lot of money on healers ele and did traditional rituals, but it did not help. I was told a lot of misleading information by some people I know and we all did not know the reason my child could not speak properly. I lost hope until I went to a professional doctor who explained to me about Autism. There is a need for parents to consult doctors when they notice that their children behave strange or they have strange signs,” Mlungu said.

Xoliswa Manukwana, Head of Department for Support Services at the school, said they appeal to parents who have children with the condition to avail themselves for the workshops.

Manukwana said they have 64 children who are transported daily from as far as Strand, Kraaifontein and Langa and that they are in a full capacity at the moment.

The children are between the ages of three to 18.

The shortage of space in all provincial schools that were designed for children with Autism has seen hundreds of the children still waiting at home to get as they are on the waiting list.

Thandeka Mavuka, the principal at Noluthando School for the Deaf, said they first accepted one child with the condition in 2006 and that now they have four classes allocated for the children.

Mavuka also said the will enrol 16 more children in June

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