Mom finally gets help for autistic son

March 21, 2019: Phumzile Vilakazi hugs her autistic son Mxolisi who she was forced to chain to a chair to protect him.
March 21, 2019: Phumzile Vilakazi hugs her autistic son Mxolisi who she was forced to chain to a chair to protect him.
Image: Mduduzi Ndzingi

There is finally hope for an Orange Farm mother who was forced to keep her autistic son chained and locked up in a shack.

Sowetan reported over a week ago that Phumzile Vilakazi had to use a chain and padlocks to keep her son Mxolisi, 18, from getting injured or hurting people around him.

Yesterday, Vilakazi said officials from the Gauteng departments of health and of social development had come to help after the story was published.

She said Mxolisi had been admitted at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital for observation, while social workers were assisting in finding a suitable care facility for him.

“I’m over the moon. Being a mother who had to chain her son up every day was killing me. A part of me was dying,” Vilakazi said.

Mxolisi suffers from autism spectrum disorder, a condition which causes difficulty in communicating or socialising. Autistic people can be extremely gifted or have severe mental impairment.

Vilakazi had previously struggled to find a facility which would care for Mxolisi due to his violent behavior which caused him to break windows and assault members of the family.

Yesterday, Vilakazi said getting a call from the health department last week was a big relief. “That call changed my life.”

She said Mxolisi was under strict supervision of medical staff.

“He is safe with a specialist who will know what to do,” she said.

Vilakazi, who was also referred for counseling, encouraged other parents with autistic children to continue speaking out. “We are our children’s mouthpiece. We must advocate for them and show them love.”

Vilakazi said she was also moved by the outpouring of support from members of the public, including Margot Hodnett who is also a mother with an autistic child, after Sowetan ran the story.

Hodnett, who also runs an autism centre, visited Vilakazi to show her support.

“I was encouraged to speak to another mother who understands what I’m going through,” Hodnett said.

Acting director of mental health for the province Dr Kobie Marais said they sent a team to assist the family and a decision was taken to refer Mxolisi to a hospital for care.

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