Children with autism battle to find school places

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
"Parents are so heartbroken because they don't know what to tell their children when they ask, 'why can't I go to school?'" Photo: Getty Images
"Parents are so heartbroken because they don't know what to tell their children when they ask, 'why can't I go to school?'" Photo: Getty Images

"Parents are so heartbroken because they don't know what to tell their children when they ask, 'why can't I go to school?'" says Faith Jones, a Community development worker at Autism Western Cape.

Jones currently does home-based programmes, offering support to families and children living with autism. She said there are too few schools with the capacity to cater for autistic learners, resulting in long waiting lists and many children stuck at home.

"I've worked with an 11-years-old who had never even seen a school because there was no placement. Children are being assessed but are still waiting for placement. Parents are giving up their jobs despite not being able to afford it, but who else is going to look after their children?" asked Jones.

Read: Autism, Alexithymia and Empathy: What you need to know

On Friday, Jones joined more than 50 parents, caregivers and volunteers who marched Hanover Street to Parliament in Cape Town.

They want the government to improve essential services for people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.

The group's memorandum was handed to the Department of Social Development's Jessica Longwe, who accepted it on behalf of Minister Lindiwe Zulu.

In the memo, Autism Western Cape asked for assistance with school placement and educational opportunities; access to adequate and timely health care (especially occupational therapy and speech therapy); more employment opportunities and adult support programmes; and access to housing.

Celeste Esau said, "Autistic adults, in particular, are falling through the cracks. Yes, it's fantastic to help the education system, but it's also necessary to support the health professionals. It took me over 30 years to be diagnosed, and it was a real struggle."

"We also want to increase awareness that autism doesn't stop when you're 18-years-old. It isn't a disease that needs to be cured, it isn't an intellectual disability where we cannot think properly, and it isn't a mental health issue because of how we act. We're just different," she said.

Thando Sabesho, whose 11-year-old daughter has autism, also joined the march. She said, "We need to be talking more about autism diagnosis, support, funding, schools, education and equality for people living with autism and their families."

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Read the original on GroundUp here.


Share your stories and questions with us via email at Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Don't miss a story!

For a weekly wrap of our latest parenting news and advice sign up to our free Friday Parent24 newsletter.

Follow us, and chat, on Facebook and Twitter.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
How do you feel about the impending replacement of the Eskom board?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Finally, time for Eskom's new dawn!
5% - 75 votes
It’ll be new faces, same problems
46% - 729 votes
Great - as long as they keep CEO André de Ruyter
49% - 766 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.