Webinar Marks World Autism Month
The College of Health Sciences in collaboration with Action In Autism held a webinar titled: Support and Resources for the Autism Community: Challenges and Opportunities to mark World Autism Month.
Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder that causes a wide range of impairments in social communication and restricted and repetitive behaviours. The webinar aimed to confront the pressing issues faced by the Autism community, recognise best practice and begin the conversation on a way forward to adequately serve the needs of the Autism community.
Public Health Medicine specialist and lecturer at UKZN Dr Tsholofelo Mhlaba and co-host, Chairperson and founding member of Action in Autism, Mrs Liza Aziz welcomed participants.
Unisa graduate Mr Prashant Parusnath, who is on the Autism spectrum highlighted the difficulties faced by people living with Autism. These include expensive medication, a lack of family and community support, lack of job opportunities and the lack of funds to access psychologists and other health professionals. He highlighted the role played by Action in Autism in his life.
Senior psychiatrist and lecturer at UKZN Dr Saeeda Paruk focused on the Signs of Autism, Challenges and the Psychiatric Manifestations of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Paruk noted that the best practice for ASD is individualised treatment, early recognition and interventions.
Ms Theodora Gugulethu Mkhize, educator, exco member and volunteer at Action in Autism highlighted the challenges faced by parents with children living with Autism. She urged community members to educate themselves about Autism and disabilities as a whole, and emphasised the need for Special Needs Schools to hire educators equipped with knowledge of how to manage an Autistic child, as well as government subsidies for medical costs.
The principal of a Special Needs School Mrs Nelisiwe Mdunge called for a paradigm shift from a medical model which fixates on the child’s problems to a social model which focuses on the child’s strengths. She also noted the challenges faced by educators in Special Needs schools.
Paediatric neurologist at the KZN Children’s and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central hospitals, Dr Vasantha Govender outlined the signs of Autism, the importance of early inventions such as limiting negative language and focusing on the child’s interests; medication and challenges faced by the KZN Children’s Hospital. Social worker, Humesh Achary drew attention to the children’s rights set out in the Children’s Act 38 of 2005. She identified the stressors of caregivers as a lack of resources within schools, the need for Action in Autism parent support groups and access to occupational therapy and psychologists within the school environment.
Words: Mandisa Shozi