Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

F is for Flood

with 14 comments

F is for Flood. Stay with me.

My GPS said I’d reached the right place, but I couldn’t find where to go. Maybe I was expecting a big sign, or a swanky office suite. I wasn’t exactly in the wrong part of town, but as I looked around, I sure wasn’t going to get out of the car and wander around lost. I called the lady I was going to meet, and she directed me down a road that wasn’t a road to the decrepit building where she worked. We met with the instant camaraderie of a pair of autism mamas. This was her place of work, this was Autism South Africa. And if I thought it looked bad from the outside, I wasn’t prepared as I entered the building, to see it had flooded, and cleaning staff were valiantly trying to mop up the water before it reached the office suites.

Autism South Africa is housed in a former hospital. The low rent they and other charities pay just covers security and cleaning staff. There hasn’t been any maintenance in several years, nor is there likely to be. I met every member of staff who worked at the national headquarters, which didn’t take long. This is a barebones operation of less than a dozen. For a country the size of South Africa, it is inconceivable that there are so few people working there. I was thinking this as the director informed that they can no longer afford their salaries.

Last year the lottery had awarded funding to establish regional offices to provide outreach programs for eight of the nine provinces. The organisation had expanded like never before in its history, and finally there was hope of reaching out to some of the more rural parts of the country. This year, there will be no funding. This year they are no longer buffered from the economic downturn that sees would-be benefactors closing their wallets. This year they might have to see everything they’ve worked for grind to a halt.

I heard about the good stuff. Once a month they hold a free clinic offering evaluations for autism spectrum disorder. Generous organizations, such as Toys R Us have donated funds to provide a series of pamphlets to educate both parents and professionals about ASD and related issues. They offer workshops, and training and support for educators. There is one (only one!) staff member who goes out to special needs schools to determine the quality of provision, and provide training where necessary. There is the Ernie Els Centre, offering a computer based ABA program with Rethink Autism.

But every hour a child with autism is born in South Africa. Even for those who get a diagnosis, there is no guarantee of a suitable educational placement. As I’ve found out myself, most schools won’t accept children with ASD, and those that do are often ill-prepared to meet their specific needs. Amongst the myriad other problems facing this country, autism is often ignored. Already there is a handful of staff doing the work of hundreds. With such a significant loss of funding, things are only going to get worse.

Everybody I spoke to there felt inundated. F is for Flood.

I spent the entire morning there, then had to leave to collect Cubby. Jill apologized that she was delivering news of such a sombre state of affairs. She asked me if I had any questions. Just the one…

How can I help?


This post is part of my A-Z series.  You can find the rest by clicking >here<.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

November 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Posted in A to Z

Tagged with , ,

14 Responses

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  1. Ugh. . . that seems. . . daunting.


    November 3, 2011 at 3:31 pm

  2. YAY, you finally met my friend Jill. 🙂
    Thank you from me, for offering to assist Autism South Africa. They try the very best they can…..and more!


    November 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    • Jill, and the rest of her team, are a dedicated and hardworking bunch. It was a pleasure to meet them all.

      Spectrummy Mummy

      November 3, 2011 at 5:30 pm

      • I am not sure if you can follow the link to where I shared your post ~
        If you can’t, here is a comment from a friend of mine! 🙂
        Wow! That’s a powerful piece of writing. As a therapist, I want to cry. How must it feel as a mom of a child with autism in SA. You moms are inspirational. xx


        November 3, 2011 at 6:05 pm

  3. This is sad with edges of the silver lining. Thank goodness for Toys R Us and Ernie Els! If you figure out a way to help and we can spread the news, I know you will share it. I’m so sad for everyone that this is the state of things there. Having not the slightest inkling of life or politics where you are, I am at a loss for suggestions. I just know that if anyone can get in there and get things done, it’s you! You know where to find me…


    November 3, 2011 at 4:21 pm

  4. Thank you for this very realistic picture! Our friends at Autism SA do excellent work, and we value their contribution. The rest of us in South Africa would have had a hard time without their excellent work in public awareness, information dissemination, development of regions, etc etc – the list goes on! Oh yes, and they provide excellent information and training sessions!

    But something needs to be said here – there are many other organisations that provide autism services on a regional basis in South Africa. There is Autism Western Cape in Cape Town, Autism Eastern Cape in Port Elizabeth, Action in Autism in Durban (Kwazulu Natal) and The Association for Autism in Pretoria. In the offices of Autism SA (last time I heard), is also the office of Autism Johannesburg.

    Apart from these regional organisations, many private and public schools and service providers care for our children and adults on the spectrum.

    I also have to mention many individuals, especially mothers out there, that do an excellent job in lobbying and sharing information.

    Add all these together, and the picture is not that grim. . . . .

    What is sorely needed, and I pray for that day, is that all of us need to stand together and speak with one voice, and not be that fragmented. Autism South Africa will, when that happens, be the great organisation that it deserves to be – and have the potential to be.

    We support Autism SA!

    Anna Atkins
    Association for Autism, Pretoria

    Anna Atkins

    November 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    • Anna, you’ll have to excuse my ignorance regarding regional services. Since we arrived in August, I haven’t yet explored outside of Johannesburg. I did not intend to disregard other organisations in South Africa, which I’m certain provide much needed services too. Thank you for pointing that out.
      As for the grim picture, this is Autism SA’s most challenging time in their history, but as they were keen to point out, also their year of biggest growth. I got them at a tough time, but they are exceptionally caring and dedicated.
      Having spent the last couple of years in the US, the difference between provision here and there is startling, particularly for those on low incomes.
      Hope I didn’t cause offense! That certainly was not my intention.

      Spectrummy Mummy

      November 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm

      • I am sure that you didn’t cause offense, (hey Anna? xx).
        We have a lot of wonderful organisations and they all do the best that they can for their area/community. Therefore, it doesn’t sound so grim BUT in reality, the access to services is extremely dire if you don’t have money to pay for those services. Our rural areas suffer the most. To help those families in need, money is needed….. and lots of it!
        I support Autism South Africa.
        Onwards and upwards!


        November 3, 2011 at 6:03 pm

      • Hi again!

        No offense taken, right from the start,promise. I just needed to broaden the vision a bit 🙂

        I meet “new” autism-friends almost daily, and have seldom been disappointed by insights and dedication.

        What is good about our current SA situation, is that clients can do their homework, and, just like on an a la cart menu, choose which services / organisations they like and support. I like that.

        Love your blog too!

        Anna Atkins

        November 5, 2011 at 12:04 pm

  5. I wish I had some profound, easy, and inexpensive solution to this. Does Ernie Els speak about autism and the needs in SA when he travels and plays golf? A good solid spokesperson with a vested interest and a large following would be wonderful……

    Lana Rush

    November 3, 2011 at 9:05 pm

  6. wow. you have such a long way to go to achieve an adequate system of support out there for all the families who are in need, i feel there must be such a sense of urgency and yet such a lot of work ahead for the program. my heart goes out to you, my heart aches for the courageous few who are working to build this supportive network for the kids and their families who may so desperately need help.


    November 5, 2011 at 11:42 pm

  7. […] find it.  I don’t feel helpless any more.  I described my first visit to the office as a flood, but now I know better.  It is a lighthouse.  In these dark times, Autism South Africa is still […]

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