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5000 babies with autism will be born in SA this year - ASA

By unknown | Apr 02, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

Seven-year-old Given Mosehla is a creature of habit. He travels daily with his mother from Tembisa to Braamfontein by train.

As a regular commuter he has claimed a particular seat on the train. If he cannot sit in his favourite spot, he simply refuses to ride on the train.

By refusing to sit anywhere else on the train, Given is not being rude, insists his mother Maggie. He is unsettled by change, she says.

"He likes things around him to be the same. If he is not used to something, he refuses to do it," explains Maggie.

Given was diagnosed with autism four years ago. According to Autism South Africa (ASA), autism is a genetic "lifelong, extremely complex and often devastating disability".

It is triggered by environmental factors and results in "disordered brain development and biochemical function".

Because of "altered chemistry" in the brain, it hinders the sufferer's language, communication skills and social interaction.

ASA estimates that 5000 children will be born with autism in South Africa this year. Though the condition is widespread, few people understand it, says ASA national director Jill Stacey.

As a result, children are often diagnosed late and few get help. The aim of World Autism Awareness Day today is to inform more people about the condition.

Autism is an "invisible" disability, says Stacey. "You can't tell someone is autistic by just looking at them."

Some people with autism never speak nor understand verbal communication.

They also have a limited capacity to understand emotion and behave differently to "normal" people.

"I used to think that Given was mad. He couldn't keep still and would scream whenever he didn't like something," says Maggie.

Autistic people may react adversely to a sudden change in their living environment, says Stacey.

Routine and a structured environment are therefore important to people with autism as it lowers their anxiety.

Given's erratic behaviour also affected his interaction with children of his age.

"They wouldn't want to play with him because he would want to hug them and pull their hair. Maybe they were scared of him," says Maggie.

Little Given has yet to learn to speak and Maggie fears for his safety. Source: Autism South Africa http://www.autismsouthafrica.org/


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