Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘autism south africa

First Aid

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Last week, I went along with the Consul General and the Community Grants Coordinator for a ceremony to mark the handing out of the very first Autism South Africa First Aid Kits.  I got to introduce my boss to the dedicated team that brought this idea to fruition.  We also toured an inner-city school for children on the spectrum.  I was immediately recognized by a member of staff as Pudding’s mother- she is such a superstar!

These First Aid kits are packages that Autism South Africa will send out to communities and schools in need to support their autistic learners.  It isn’t an autism unit in every school.  It isn’t specially trained teachers and therapists such as the wealthier amongst us can afford.  This is the most basic toolkit for those with nothing else, for true communities in need: rural, isolated, impoverished.

We got to meet some of the recipients of these kits, and I don’t know how I managed not to shed a tear as they talked about how tools as simple as a laminator and velcro were going to change the lives of children there.  Each kit contains strategies and tools, with a guide to producing developmental toys with limited resources and no impact to the environment.

The US Mission to South Africa provides the Self-Help grant that funds 80 of these kits, but the impact of these strategies is beyond measure.

Beyond measure…just like the potential of those given the right support.  This first aid may not be saving lives, but it is definitely changing them…for the better.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

November 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Shining a Light (at Hopeful Parents)

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This post was originally published at Hopeful Parents.  You can read it there by clicking below:

Hopeful Parents

I’ve been volunteering for Autism South Africa since I visited their offices a few months ago.  Unfortunately, the financial difficulties the organization was experiencing then have become even more pronounced.  There is no government support.  Donations are dwindling.  Existing sources of revenue are drying up.

There is the great dilemma- should you continue to push for awareness in a country where autism is under-diagnosed and misunderstood, knowing that it is already impossible to provide adequate assistance?

The one thing they desperately need- more money- I’m unable to bring.  I couldn’t help but feel helpless.

And yet that morning…

  • In walked a student from the local university looking for further information about autism spectrum disorders.
  • An educator is travelling around the country providing workshops for parents, therapists and teachers.
  • A therapist stopped by and asked to be added to the mailing list for more information about autism workshops.
  • The mother of a newly diagnosed child was able to walk in and collect information about autism in her own language, and given direction about the next steps.
  • Another concerned parent could call in and schedule an appointment for a full assessment free of charge.

The staff continue to work on ways to help everyone affected by autism in South Africa has access to the support and services they need, regardless of the current situation.

Following a phone call in which a father asked, “Is there any hope?” following the recent diagnosis of his child, the member of staff who took the call turned to me and said he wasn’t sure how to respond to that question.  He asked me how I would have replied.

There is always hope.

When there is nothing left to give, hope is the one thing you can give.  We hopeful parents know that.  A cause is never hopeless as long as there are people trying to 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 shining a light.  Now all that remains is to make that beacon brighter.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm

F is for Flood

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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

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