The Western Cape Social Development Department welcomes Autism Awareness Month | Western Cape Government

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The Western Cape Social Development Department welcomes Autism Awareness Month

5 April 2022

April marks the annual commemoration of Autism Awareness Month and the objective is to take measures to raise awareness about persons with autism around the globe.

The United Nations (UN) notes that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are a diverse group of conditions. They are characterised by some degree of difficulty with social interaction and communication. Other characteristics are atypical patterns of activities and behaviours, such as difficulty with transition from one activity to another, a focus on details and unusual reactions to sensations.

The abilities and needs of autistic persons vary and can evolve over time. While some people with autism can live independently, others have severe disabilities and require life-long care and support. Autism often has an impact on education and employment opportunities. In addition, the demands on families providing care and support can be significant. Societal attitudes and the level of support provided by local and national authorities are important factors determining the quality of life of people with autism (United Nations, 2022).

“As a Department, we are under no illusion that inclusivity needs to be at the centre of all our work. As individuals, there is also an onus on us all, to care about and engage with the challenges faced by persons with autism.

Let us joins hands in working to build an inclusive society in which, every person has the opportunity to fulfill his or her potential and lead a full and active life that is valued by society,” said the Western Cape Minister for Social Development, Sharna Fernandez.

In recognistion of World Autism Awareness Day commemorated on Saturday, 2 April 2022, Minister Fernandez joined hands with the Nosh for Josh Foundation in a Cookie Bake off fundraiser, aimed at raising awareness about the challenges and concerns faced by Persons with Autism. The Nosh for Josh is a Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) that focuses on creating awareness about autism and helping those affected by it.

For the 2022/23 financial year, R 176 million has been budgeted for developmental social welfare services to people with disabilities, their families and/ or caregivers.

The Department currently funds 220 Non- Profit Organisations (NPOs) that render services to persons with disabilities. Services rendered by the Department and its NPO partners include:

  • Disability awareness and educational programmes,
  • Developmental supportive and therapeutic services (social work interventions): counselling, support group programmes and daycare programmes for adults and children with disabilities,
  • Support programmes for families/caregivers,
  • Protective workshops services and residential care services. 

Residential care services:

The provincial DSD provides funding to 41 residential care facilities that offer specialized care options for 1674 people with disabilities.

Residential care facilities are established communities that offer various levels of care, support and guidance for residents. These facilities encourage their residents to grow and live a life of value. Furthermore, all residents are encouraged to decide what they wish to accomplish but are done so under the supervision of dedicated staff and their respective family members.

Social Work Services:

  • Awareness and educational programmes on disability issues.
  • Provision of social work services: counselling services, trauma debriefings.
  • Peer support programmes.
  • Family/parental support programmes.
  • Empowerment programmes for persons with disabilities: Life skills programmes, programmes enhancing positive self-image, self-perception.

Protective Workshop Services; -. The Department funds several workshops for people with disabilities. Considering the current Covid19 pandemic- the department developed and implemented service continuity plans in case of a reduced workforce, or new workers are recruited in consultation with people with disabilities, their families and other local disability and caregiver agencies. 

Daycare centres (for both children and adults): Centres are managed by NPOs to provide day-time supervised care, stimulation, structured programmes and activities. 

The Department also subsidises the salaries of carers and programme implementers, and the safe transportation of children with severe and profound intellectual disability at 44-day care centres.

“Together, we can develop a society that addresses the needs of all its people,” Concluded Minister Fernandez.

Things to remember when engaging with a person with autism:

Autism experts at the May Institute offer great advice for speaking with persons with autism.

  • Address him or her as you would any other adult, not a child.

Disabilities come in all forms––do not assume that each person with autism has a low cognitive ability. 

  • Avoid using words or phrases that are too familiar or personal.

Using pet names, terms of endearment, or calling someone “sweetie” isn’t appropriate. Keep things professional and respectful. 

  • Say what you mean.

It is best to avoid the use of sarcasm and metaphors, as autistic individuals are typically very literal and do understand it.

  • Take time to listen.

Take the role of an active listener. Whether your friend is telling a story or needs to express his or her feelings, truly hear what they have to say. 

  • If you ask a question, wait for a response.

It is important to allow ample time when communicating––not everyone has the same processing speed.  

  • Provide meaningful feedback

Your job is to help adults with ASD. If you notice an inappropriate behavior or have a better way of saying/doing something, offer immediate, non-judgmental feedback. 

  •  Don’t speak as if the person is not in the room.

When working with family members or other professionals, address them along with the person with autism if everyone is in the same room. 

Keep in mind that everyone is different and has a different communication style––even those without autism! 

For more information contact:

Any persons interested in finding out more information about the services we offer those persons with disabilities can contact our department by calling, 0800 220 250, to be directed to your nearest local DSD office.

For more information about our other services, please refer to the Western Cape Department’s Website below:

Media Enquiries: 

Joshua Covenant Chigome

Spokesperson for the Minister of Social Development, Minister Sharna Fernandez

Tel: 021 483 9217

Cell: 083 661 4949