Children with autism and their parents need more help, says MEC

Photo: @David_Makhura/Twitter.

Photo: @David_Makhura/Twitter.

Published Apr 4, 2023


Johannesburg - The theme for 2023 is “Transforming the Narrative: Contributions at Home, at Work, in the Arts, and in Policy making”, which calls on everyone to accept and support autistic people in society and in the workplace.

Nkomo-Ralehoko said statistics show that one in 160 children is born with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which tends to persist into adolescence and adulthood. While some people with ASD can live independently, others have severe disabilities and require lifelong care and support.

“In my interactions with families of children who have been diagnosed with ASD, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy, it became clear to me that we need to improve our efforts as a government to ensure that the little ones get the best care there is, as this improves their chances of leading an independent life." It is very important that we increase the establishment of centres of excellence at our health facilities so that families can be closer to the services and support they need.

“The Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) has established centres of excellence to ensure comprehensive care and support for children with special needs. These community-based centres of excellence are a one-stop clinic for children with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other neurological and developmental disorders.

“To ensure effective care and treatment for children with special needs, the centres offer a multidisciplinary approach, provided by a multitude of role players, which include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dietetics, speech and audiology, psychology, social work, pharmacy, medical officers, family physicians, and dental practitioners.”

She said the 28 centres are also a gateway to highly specialized services that are required by children with special needs, including neurodevelopmental paediatricians, neurologists, orthopaedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, and child psychiatrists, among others.

“In addition to services rendered to children with special needs, the GDoH has established support groups within health facilities across the province. Currently, there are 22 support groups for children with special needs, including cerebral palsy.

“The groups meet once a month and are facilitated by rehabilitation teams. Parents are taught about their children’s conditions, how to manage them at home, coping skills, and stress management. This empowers parents with skills to make a difference in their children’s lives.

“In the Johannesburg district, parents can get the services at Hillbrow, Discoverers, Alexandra, Chiawelo, and Stretford CHCs, as well as Mofolo and Zola Clinics. The team is in the process of establishing a centre of excellence at Lenasia South District Hospital,” said Nkomo-Ralehoko.

She added that in the West Rand, parents can visit Dr. Yusuf Dadoo, Carletonville, and Leratong Hospital, while in the Sedibeng district, the services can be accessed at Johan Heynes CHC, Heidelberg, Kopanong, and Sebokeng Hospitals.

“The department is in the process of establishing an additional four centres.”

The Star