By Elsie Mofokeng and Madika Mofokeng
30 April 2019 - Society must learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) so that they can give maximum support to learners. These are the sentiments echoed by the MEC for Education, Mr. Panyaza Lesufi, when he attended the Autism Awareness Day at Ecaleni LSEN School. The event aims to empower parents with knowledge on autism and how to raise and support children living with the condition.
In his address, MEC Lesufi reminded parents that learners with special needs must not be treated as second class citizens.
“Learners with special needs deserve the best and as such must be treated the same as other learners. Learners must be at school and should not be kept at home as if they cannot get a school in our province. Hence, we have invested enough resources to build more schools for them.
“I am happy and proud that we reduced the unacceptable waiting period of (5) five-years to six (6) months by building more schools to accommodate these learners. In 2015, the Department had only one Autism unit at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital. We are proud to say that currently, we have about 13 Autism units at different schools,” said MEC Lesufi.
Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and non-verbal communication.
The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely impaired. Some people with ASD need high support (a lot of help and intensive intervention) while others need low support (less help and less intensive intervention). Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterised, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, repetitive behaviors and differences in sensory perception.
Ecaleni LSEN School is the first autism school to be established in the township by the Gauteng Department of Education.