Teaching those with autism to live a full life

By Viwe Ndongeni Time of article published Jan 29, 2018

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For many parents, the day their child is diagnosed with autism is the day their world came to a halt.

While for some it takes time to come to terms with this medical condition due to fear and uncertainty, many parents move on and do everything to make sure that their child has a bright future.

With the start of the academic year, the reality is that many families are still stuck with no knowledge on how to handle, or school, children with autism.

Hence, Action4Autism - an organisation that assist families with children with autism - was started.

The organisation, which was initiated by two friends, Reyan Abrahams, 37, and Inge Petersen, 27, teaches teenagers and young adults how to be independent from their families, and to manage their own lives.

While there is much intervention at the onset of autism in a child, with various organisations who are well-equipped, there is little focus on equipping autistic children to become independent young adults.

After teaching and tutoring for several years, Abrahams indentified a need concerning autistic children and adults.

“I saw there was a gap in the market for a specific vulnerable group that was not being serviced or helped, including adults with autism,” he said.

“As far as my research goes, there are no organisations in South Africa who teach them basic life lessons, have outings for them and to ensure that they enjoy their lives.

“So, we want to make sure adults and teenagers with autism don’t get left behind or lost in the system due to lack of support or access to ongoing learning.”

After working in the health and wellness industry for a decade, “it was only natural that this would be an organic progression” for Abrahams.

From working on basic life skills for ASD (autism spectrum disorder) teenagers and adults in developing personal bespoke programmes after intensive consultation with parents, Abrahams and Petersen want to aid independence and build confidence among autistic youth.

Petersen said autism was misunderstood.

“I think people need to do more research before making assumptions. Autism is not a disability,” she said.

Handling children with autism is difficult, she added, but with the right heart it can be rewarding: “It takes a lot of patience, something that took me a while to get.”

Petersen said that autistic children should be given a chance, adding: “They all have their own learning channel - you can see their true potential.

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