Breaking stigmas on World Autism Awareness Day
Today we observe World Autism Awareness Day, a day in which we raise awareness about autism and celebrate individuals who are on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurological condition that affects communication and behavior. The autism spectrum refers to the variety of potential differences, skills, and levels of ability that are present in people on the spectrum. There is no cure, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce symptoms, improve thinking abilities and daily living skills.
Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
- Preferring to playing alone, retreating into their own world;
- Poor eye contact and lacking facial expression;
- Not speaking or delayed speech;
- Repeating words or phrases but not understanding how to use them.
“There is still a significant cloud of stigma around Autism Spectrum Disorder, with many people still not fully understanding what it means, or even how it may present in an individual. I urge parents to be aware of signs that their child may be on the spectrum, as there are non-invasive interventions that can be implemented from an early age. This can provide children with the necessary tools to become fully integrated members of society when they are older,” says Minister of Social Development Sharna Fernandez.
The Western Cape Department of Social Development has allocated R61 million in 2023/2024 to 62 Social Service Organisations (SSOs) that provide support to people and children with disabilities, and their families.
These include organisations supporting those with autism and their families, like Autism Western Cape, Education & Training Hub for Autism Needs, based in Mossel Bay, and Iris House Children’s Hospice in Bellville.
The Department subsidizes Special Care Centres for Children with Disabilities, which includes those providing for the needs of individuals on the ASD, like Autism Connect in Mitchells Plain and Leolan Academy in Mossel Bay.
The Department also spends R30 million on funding four Child and Youth Care Centres for children with profound disabilities in alternative care. It also manages the Sivuyile Residential Facility, which accommodates children and adults with severe and profound, physical, and intellectual disabilities.