Autism exhibition creates awareness

The display room at the River Club which displayed tools and resources to help autistic children with their learning development. Pictured is Carmen Walker and Maria Carrillo.

The state and society have failed people with autism, says Social Development MEC Albert Fritz.

Mr Fritz was speaking at an expo at the River Club, in Observatory, on Friday October 14 to raise awareness of the condition. He outlined the challenges people with disabilities face, particularly those in poor communities.

“People living with disabilities have been left out of our society. Government and society have collectively failed those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). For too long, the people of South Africa and us in government have been lying to ourselves. We say we are an inclusive society with equal rights when in fact some of us don’t enjoy these rights.

“It’s amazing that 7665 children are born with autism every year in South Africa, yet parents of autistic children can’t guarantee that they will have a better life than them. If you are born in a place like Delft or Hanover Park, parents don’t know what is happening to their child or how to deal with their children and there is no guidance from government,” he said.

An NGO, #autismsowhat, organised the Autism Expo, using the tagline “Empowering those disempowered by autism”. It was a chance for both those with and without the disorder to share experiences and shatter misconceptions.

The expo featured various organisations that specialise in helping those with autism.

Autism is a lifelong and complex developmental disorder which affects social behaviour and communication, which differs from person to person.

The condition is said to affect four to five times more boys than girls.

#autismsowhat was established in December last year by Carmen Walker and Maria Carrillo, who have loved ones with the condition.

“I have an autistic husband and two autistic children who have inspired me to extend myself, and I am speaking on behalf of Maria as well who is also a mother of an autistic son, so we want to extend ourselves with the knowledge that we have gained over the years, with one another. It has been approximately 16 years that we have been part of the autism community” said Ms Walker.

The expo, she said, gave parents, teachers and professionals a chance to network and share their experience and gain further knowledge about autism.

“What we found was a need and a collaboration of various product and service providers, so what we have here today is a nice culmination of donations from schools and other companies providing their goods and services,” said Ms Walker.

Bishop Bernie Letuli of the New Apostolic Church said every autistic child was a “perfect gift” from God and should be honoured and celebrated.