- Despite the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder in South Africa with international statistics estimating that as many as 1 in 88 children are affected, it remains a largely unknown and unrecognised disorder to the majority of South Africans, particularly in rural areas.
- The cause of autism remains largely elusive. “However, available research indicates that both genetic predisposition and environmental factors play a role in the growth of this neurodevelopmental disorder,” says Elaine Brand from The DreamTree School, a private and independendt autism-friendly school.
- Key features of autism include difficulties in language, communication and social interaction together with the presence of restricted or repetitive thought patterns and behaviour. People with autism also often have sensory processing difficulties resulting in over or under sensitivity to sights, sounds, tastes and textures.
- Children with autism require help and intervention to minimise difficulties from an early age. This will help them lead fuller lives which can promote greater independence later on.
- Early diagnosis is key, after which proper intervention should be found. “Living without a proper diagnosis, and acceptance of the diagnosis, leads to frustration in both the child affected by autism as well as their families,” says Brand.
- Autism can be diagnosed accurately in children aged three years and older, with the majority of children diagnosed between four and five years of age.
- If parents notice a developmental delay, they are encouraged to seek professional help immediately as early diagnosis leads to early intervention.
- Finding the correct school or therapeutic placement for a child with autism makes the world of difference. Children with autism often struggle to cope with the social and academic demands placed on them at mainstream schools. The sooner intervention starts, the more content, able and independent the child tends to be.
About the DreamTree School
The DreamTree School located in Somerset West currently provides educational, developmental and social support to seven children, with the capacity for at least seven more. The school’s aim is to create a unique autism-friendly, integrated, developmentally-focused and therapeutic educational environment in which the optimum growth of each learner can be achieved.
Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals. Meet the Living & Loving Team and our Online Experts.