Green fingers give great joy to autistic man

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

Wimpie Coetzee has green fingers and his entire life revolves around plants.

He has read more than 250 books about plants and knows their scientific, English and Afrikaans names.

"Plants are our jewels. Trees are our oxygen. We must look after them," he says clutching a dicoma or doll protea.

Wimpie displayed a passion for plants at an early age, says his mother Marie.

"He has always loved plants. Even when he was a child he preferred flowers and leaves to playing with toys and other children," says Marie.

He admits to being emotional about plants and developments that destroy indigenous plants.

"I cry very easily if people cut trees and uproot plants."

Wimpie has worked at Rand Water Nursery for 10 years. He was diagnosed with autism when he was seven years old.

The genetic condition affects language, communication and social skills as well as the intellectual development of sufferers.

Now 30 years old, to his mother Marie, he is the epitome of what autistic people can achieve with support and guidance.

"I am very proud of him. He is bilingual and very intelligent. He can memorise movie lines and recite them word for word."

Marie believes parents of autistic children have to encourage their children to reach their full potential.

"Being a parent to an autistic child is hard work. You have to dedicate yourself 150percent and encourage them to pursue their interests."