#PlayAfricaStories #PlayAfricaCOVID19Stories #WorldAutismAwarenessDay

When my son, T, was around 2, we realized he wasn’t speaking at all. I thought he’ll speak later and he was just delayed. If you didn’t know our family, you would not even tell there was a child in the house, except if he cried. However, my thought wasn’t the truth. T grew and still did not speak. He made hand gestures to communicate.

I only decided to take him to hospital when he was 3 turning 4. He underwent various tests and was diagnosed with autism. This diagnosis did not come as a relief to me. Instead, I was in denial and I did everything in my power to fight my new reality. I went to prophets for prayers and many other things – nothing worked.

When he was 5 we started speech therapy and we found him a school in Krugersdorp. He is now 11. He a weekly boarder and comes home on weekends. This has been – and still is – the toughest thing for me, my son being away from me. But it has to be this way because as a single parent, I need to work and provide for my children. It is even tougher because I work on Saturdays as well, and my sister looks after him until I come back from work.

Some basic things are not that basic for children living with autism. Basic hygiene – washing hands can be a struggle on an ordinary day. When COVID-19 started it was a more stressful time because the washing of hands has to be done. When schools closed, T came home and I closed for work.

We are renting a big, outside room on a property with a big yard and since the lockdown, our lives have literally been indoors. T loves being outdoors but we can’t take him out because the owner has a dog and my son is terrified of dogs. This was never a problem because before the lockdown we had options. We could go for a walk outside or go to the park.

Right now it is so hard and so stressful for me as a parent because I am paying more attention to one son more than the other. My other son, E, is eight. He needs attention too but we are making necessary sacrifices. E loves and looks up to his older brother T. When he was younger, he would copy everything that T did to express himself, particularly the flapping of hands. The copying stopped when his brother went to school. Now that they are both home, the copying of everything the older brother does is starting again.

I’m grateful though to my son’s school for providing us with an activity filled manual for indoor activities. Even with this resource, I know my son just wants to be outside.

I would like during this time for the broader community to educate themselves about autism and come out of this period more tolerant and understanding of our kids: their frustrations, their needs. They are a part of society and it is not their fault that they have to live with autism.

#Autism #AutismAcceptance #WorldAutismAcceptanceDay #AutismAwarenessDay #AutismAwareness #AutismAwarenessMonth #Children #Parenting #ChildrenWithDisabilities #COVID19 #Coronavirus #COVID19SouthAfrica #SouthAfrica #Africa #ChildrensMuseums #Museums #play #homelearning

Autism South Africa Constitution Hill (South Africa) The Gauteng Growth and Development Agency Rand Merchant Bank Goethe-Institut Johannesburg Bloomberg Philanthropies High Commission of Canada in South Africa Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Department of Arts and Culture Department Of Basic Education Gauteng Department of Education Association of Children’s Museums

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