SABC News - Gauteng education opens autism school in Soweto:Monday 18 January 2016

Gauteng education opens autism school in Soweto

Monday 18 January 2016 20:38

Neliswa Mavundla

Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, interacts with a child with autism at the launch of the Thulasizwe School for Autism, in Orlando West, Soweto.(Twitter @EducationGP)

Children living with autism in Soweto will now have easier access to schooling. This comes after the Gauteng Department of Education officially opened the Thulasizwe School for Autism in Orlando West, Soweto.

The school is one of eleven institutions that have been opened since the start of the year to cater for children with special intellectual needs.

Thulasizwe School for Autism will accommodate 90 learners.

Autism is a life-long learning condition which affects an individual's ability to interact socially, to communicate and to cope with changes.

People with autism are unable to communicate normally.

Children with autism may be denied access to education because of the lack of facilities available to handle their learning disability.

The learning environment for autistic children differs significantly from that of mainstream learners.

The teacher learner ratio is 8 to 1 in schools catering for autism, whereas in mainstream schools, it can be as high as 40 to 1.

The walls of the classrooms are dull and colourless and there are no charts or colourful pictures featuring numbers and the alphabet.

Experts say they have to keep the classrooms simple because children living with autism are easily distracted, but there are barely enough schools which cater for children with intellectual disabilities.

Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, has committed himself to ensuring that special needs learners are not left behind.

Nationally, there are 4800 learners on the waiting list for placement at these special needs schools.

Out of the 11 schools recently opened, two cater exclusively for autistic children.

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