SABC News - Conducive educational space can play a role for children with autism:Friday 30 June 2017

Conducive educational space can play a role for children with autism

Friday 30 June 2017 19:26

Bafedile Moerane

Autism South Africa says more still needs to be done to improve the learning environment of children living with Autism syndrome.

This was highlighted by professionals who attended the 2017 Autism Symposium at the North West University in Potchefstroom.

Autism is a mental condition present from early childhood and characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.

The theme of the symposium is to CONNECT to effect Change.

The symposium also aims to create awareness of the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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

People with the syndrome are unable to communicate normally. And according to Autism South Africa - compounding the situation is a lack of appropriate learning spaces for children.

It's estimated that 50 000 teenagers with autism leave schooling due to the condition each year.

Sandy Usswald, the director at Autism South Africa, says it is only in Gauteng province where conditions in education are changing for the better to accommodate children with autism.

“In Gauteng it is certainly improving, we have our MEC Panyasa Lesufi who has made submissions to make sure that all children in Gauteng with Autism can have access to education. But somewhere in the North West for instance there is nothing. There is no school that actually understands and accepts our children to put the structures in place that they need to because our children do learn differently it's not like a typical child that is going to learn a normal classroom environment , they need structure they need routine, they need a lot of visual support”, she said

Autism Regional Developer Officer, Thando Makapela, has a 23-year-old child with autism, her son is an IT specialist.

Makapela says her son has had autism syndrome since the age of three, and it was difficult at first to figure out the condition.

Makapela shares the sentiment that a suitable educational environment played a good role in helping her son.

“We got the diagnosis from Dr Webner who was a paediatrician at the time and he was admitted at Johannesburg hospital school for autism. He is independent, he is complete, and he is a complete product. So when I travel around to do presentations and workshops I take him with, to show people that the child is in the right environment and you are not in denial. He gets the right education, he benefits from it, most of the characteristics fall off and they become okay, and they are very intelligent. When they master a skill, excellent, he is a perfect IT specialist”, said Makapela

Melt Olckers from Pretoria works as a Product Control Officer at the City of Tshwane Fresh Produce Market.

He was also diagnosed with autism. He believes that they also have capabilities to do better, irrespective of the condition.

“Accept us as we are with our various interest and we can work normally in society. We can do many things that other normal people can do”, he said.

There are three different types of Autism Spectrum Disorders - Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

There is a slight difference between the three types of Autism.  Autism South Africa says more still needs to be done to share information to communities about the condition.

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