Living with autism, a matric pupil at Cathkin High in Heideveld, whose parents were told he wouldn’t excel at a regular school, has come out on top with nine awards at the school’s valedictory ceremony.
Last week, 18-year-old Edward Helsinger received academic awards for geography, history, business studies, maths literacy, a prize for being the third-best performing pupil in Grade 12 and the principal’s award, among others.
“I was surprised, I didn’t expect to get any (awards) that day. I don’t usually get awards at school. It was my first time,” Helsinger said.
His favourite subjects are business and history.
“I study most days when I get home from school. I’m going to miss school and all the support I received.”
He advised other young people that hard work pays off and their attitude towards their studies would determine their results.
His mother, Melanie, said: “We were very happy about the awards. We were crying that day because we did not expect it.
“When they called his name, I started shouting, then I just heard Edward Helsinger again and again.
There was even a moment when all the teachers and parents even stood up from their seats clapping.”
She said Helsinger’s autism diagnosis was confirmed in Grade 8.
“The first school said I must take him to a special school, so I said no I would put him in another school, and there he did well.
“When he got to high school at Cathkin, they said they could see he just needed help.
“They got him a psychologist. Then they said he was just going to need a little extra time, there is nothing wrong with his mind.
“When you tell people a child is autistic, they think the child is stupid or something like that.
“My child is so advanced he will ask me questions I can’t even answer.
“Autism doesn’t stop a child from being great.
“Just be there for your child, support them every step of the way because that is what I did.”
The family said they hoped to acquire a bursary for him to pursue his tertiary education.