On Thursday, 4 April, the Department of Social Development in the City of Joburg held an awareness campaign at the Metro Centre, Braamfontein, to sensitise the staff and general public about Autism.
The campaign was also aimed at encouraging communities to speak about Autism and support families in fighting the myths associated with the complex brain disorder associated with the condition.
Most families of the children with Autism continue to be ostracised due to a lack of knowledge.
Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Health and Social Development, Dr Mpho Phalatse, said it was important for the broader society to understand the Autism spectrum disorder before attaching labels and reprimanding those with and affected by it.
As a former medical student, Phalatse said they were taught the theory on Autism, but had very little practical exposure to the condition. It was then and still remains poorly understood even by health care workers. She said it is for this reason that the many children with Autism remain undiagnosed.
“We have come to know that not understanding the educational need of these children impacts negatively on their learning and development. Diagnoses is therefore crucial so that these children can be channeled towards programs that enhance their learning and development such as those offered by Autism SA. The city is planning to retrain all health care workers on Autism and recognizing its diagnostic features and we hope to be able to work with Autism SA amongst other stakeholders, for the practical component of this training,” said MMC Phalatse.
As drivers of advocacy on behalf of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), Social Development continues to embark on various educational programs that will give support to these families.
The department, in partnership with Autism South Africa (ASA) and iSchoolAfrica will be hosting a range of activities for the month of April to raise awareness.
ASA national director, Sandra Usswald said they were delighted to be part of the second annual Autism Awareness campaign.
‘’Speaking about Autism to our local communities and educating the public about acceptance and appreciation of children and adults with Autism really assists us in decreasing the stigma and isolation that our families deal with every day”.
This partnership will include the launch of the ‘iSchoolAfrica Lab’, a programme that aims to offer relevant and customized educational solutions for learners with remedial and special needs. Through a model of technology and facilitation, the program will enhance the instruction available to teachers and learners in communication, social interaction and numeracy.
“This project will help to remove children with Autism from a solitary world by reconnecting them to the real world through technology that will enhance their self-worth,” reiterated MMC Mpho Phalatse.
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