Not disabled, just different

27 April 2018 | People

April is Autism Awareness Month.

I recently attended an event where I found myself surrounded by children laughing, screaming and running around.

The majority of these children were autistic. I looked at the one boy, running and screaming, waving his hands in the air, lost in his own world, when I heard a lady behind me saying: “Why won't this child keep quiet?” She sounded annoyed. When the man standing next to her calmly told her that the boy was autistic it downed on me that not many know what autism is. Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently than other people. Usually autism begins in the early childhood years. It is not an illness or disease and cannot be 'cured'. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity.

Autism is regarded as a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic affects people in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support. All people on the autism spectrum learn and develop, and with the right sort of support, they can be helped to live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing.

Instead of looking at the perceived 'deficits', society should use the strengths and fixations of autistic people to teach coping techniques and skills. Many people with autism strive on routine and structure, visual presentation of materials and small groups. Often they have sensory difficulties too. Zanet Pieterse, mother of eight-year-old EJ, says that it's a blessing and also challenging to raise an autistic child.

“Every morning depends on how he slept the previous night, and he usually doesn't sleep that well. I sometimes struggle myself to get up in the morning, due to lack of sleep. After getting up I change his clothes while he's sleeping. Aside from this I prepare his meals and that of his older sister. He spends half the day at Stepping Stone School. After school he spends time on his own and prefers to watch YouTube videos or play internet games.

“EJ has food aversions and doesn't just eat anything. It has nothing to do with the taste of food, but simply the smell. He's currently still on baby formula, and he needs to drink about two bottles a day. The formula contains certain vitamins and minerals that he doesn't get through the food he eats. Every morning and evening he drinks a concoction of medicines, mostly herbal supplements, to help settle him. ”

Pieterse explains that EJ was a normal boy up until two years old.

“He stopped eating. We took him to numerous doctors in South Africa, but no one could diagnose him. It's been a challenging journey with EJ. It requires a lot of effort, but our efforts are always awarded. Autism isn't a time game, where you can measure certain development at a specific age.

“The general autism community doesn't want us to label children or people with autism. But personally, I'd like a label that says:'I'm autistic, be patient'. People aren't always aware of autism, and when they see how EJ behaves, they usually think he's misbehaving, but when I tell them he's autistic, they immediately change their tone.”

EJ has high functioning autism.

“He's verbal, and behaves like an ordinary boy, but he has trouble dealing with his emotions. He reads, and writes, and everything he hears and sees he soaks up like a sponge and can easily recite it again. Someone can have autism, but can be affected in a different way, and may need more support”

Pieterse says the main role of parents of autistic children is to sculpt their gifts and talents.

“These children have been sent to contribute to society. They are not disabled but simply just different. ”

Contact the Autism Association of Namibia via [email protected] or visit the social media pages Petra Autnam Dillmann, Ask me, I'm Autistic, Karla's ASD page and the Autism Discussion Page to find out more about autism.

Similar News

 

Taking rhythmic gymnastics to new heights

3 weeks ago - 25 February 2019 | People

Leandrea Louw - Former gymnast, now coach and rhythmic gymnastics club owner Britt Adonis (34) aspires to be Namibia’s first gymnastics judge at the Olympics.Adonis...

Not a pie in the sky

1 month - 11 February 2019 | People

Otis Finck - Uwe and Henrietta “Hetta” Bachmann established Artisan Bread Bakery and Coffee shop in 2011. Uwe hails from Swakopmund and formerly worked in...

Topnaars mourn death of Chief Kootjie

1 month - 28 January 2019 | People

Topnaar chief and Nama traditional council chairperson Joel Seth Kooitjie (65) passed away in Walvis Bay on Thursday evening. According to a relative he died...

Local pianist aims higher

5 months ago - 15 October 2018 | People

Leandrea LouwKarl Philander (18), a learner at De Duine Secondary School, was invited to participate in the University of South Africa (Unisa) South African Music...

Woman walks 460 km along Swakop River

7 months ago - 20 July 2018 | People

After 28 days of walking along the Swakop River, covering 462 kilometres, the 49-year-old Nikola Fahrbach finally arrived at the river mouth at the end...

Local to become first female marine engineer

7 months ago - 20 July 2018 | People

Leandrea Louw Ashlynn Zoe Paulse (25), originally from Narraville, Walvis Bay, is in her final year studying marine engineering in Vigo, Spain. Upon her...

Local learner ready to tackle youth matters

9 months ago - 24 May 2018 | People

Leandrea Louw - Tuilika Andreas, a grade 12 learner at Duinesig Combined School inWalvis Bay, was among the lucky persons to be selected for the...

Theatre industry needs more support

9 months ago - 24 May 2018 | People

Swakopmund raised Vanessa Kamatoto is one of the Namibian Theatre actresses who is putting the Erongo region on the map.The 24-year-old, who is a fourth...

Remembering Father Herman

10 months ago - 18 May 2018 | People

Father Herman Klein-Hitpass (OMI) passed away on 24 April after a prolonged sickbed in Windhoek. Ambassador Wilfried I Emvula paid tribute to the man known...

Fighting for what's right

10 months ago - 11 May 2018 | People

Eusebio Omar van Reenen (21) recently made history when he was chosen as the student association president at the State University of New York at...

Latest News

Plastic bag levy put to...

1 day - 18 March 2019 | Local News

Otis Finck - Money generated from the sales of plastic shopping bags at Superspar Swakopmund and Spar Ocean View was put to good use recently....

Orano Mining donates 22 computers

1 day - 18 March 2019 | Local News

Adolf Kaure - Orano Mining handed over 22 computers with a combined value of N$22 000 to the Erongo regional council (ERC). Orano Mining’s spokesperson...

Linking up Namibia

1 day - 18 March 2019 | Infrastructure

Otis Finck - The minister of works and transport, John Mutorwa, and the deputy minister of national planning, Piet van der Walt, conducted site visits...

School proud of JTC members

1 day - 18 March 2019 | Education

Karibib Private School boasts with four members who are part of the Karibib junior town council. Pictured here, from left to right, are Purity Rukero...

Gone but never forgotten

1 day - 18 March 2019 | Local News

Karl Philander - The community of Kuisebmond mourns the tragic death of young Jackson Iipinge, a learner at Kuisebmond Secondary School who passed away on...

ISWB awards its best

1 day - 18 March 2019 | Education

Karl Philander - The International School of Walvis Bay (ISWB) recently held its inter-house athletics and awarded the best athletes.The Cobras and Scorpions competed against...

Mr Walvis Bay 2019 crowned...

1 day - 18 March 2019 | Events

Leandrea Louw - The fifth annual Mr Walvis Bay competition took place last week with the theme “Biker Boys”. Rowellyn Polster was crowned as Mr...

Thankful for independence

1 day - 18 March 2019 | Local News

Adolf Kaure - The battle for Namibia to gain independence was a long and worthwhile one.Swakopmund-based entrepreneur Nancy Garoes (28), who owns a health studio,...

Growing up in a democratic...

1 day - 18 March 2019 | Local News

Leandrea Louw - The junior town council mayor of Karibib, Gillian Benade, says the joy of growing up in a democratic country is immense.“The amount...

Load More