4 November 2018

Byline: Hameema Mdala

For those who know her, Lonwabo Mrwetyana has been attending events within Govan Mbeki Municipality with only one aim in her mind and that was spreading the news about Autism.
The reason she developed the love to be an activist for Autism was because of her five-year-old nephew who had Autism.
Autism is a spectrum of closely related disorders with a shared core of symptoms.
Autism spectrum disorder appears in infancy and early childhood, causing delays in many basic areas of development, such as learning to talk, play, and interact with others.
The signs and symptoms of autism vary widely, as do its effects.
Some children with autism have only mild impairments, while others have more obstacles to overcome. However, every child on the autism spectrum has problems, at least to some degree, in the following three areas:
Communicating verbally and non-verbally, relating to others and the world around them, and thinking and behaving flexibly.
After Lonwabo discovered that her nephew was autistic, she started to read books and googled about it.
During the interview, Lonwabo said some parents are being labeled as spoiling their children or failing to discipline them accordingly, but little did they know is that some of those kids who are labeled as troublesome have Autism.
This political science graduate continued that some people with autism have meltdowns and some decide to just shut down and not talk.
Her vision is to campaign for a school that can accommodate children with autism.
According to her, most autistic children attend normal schools but struggle because of the teachers who are not equipped to help them.
Some children are said to have speech impairment or decide not to speak too much, either speaking only one word just to respond to the questions.
She recently managed to host an awareness workshop and they had more people than expected.
Through her informal campaigns, more parents began to engage her to help with the relevant information and referrals.
Little Angels Pre-school in Evander accommodates children with Autism and Lonwabo wishes the school can be used as a pilot for this area.
Though she is currently doing voluntary work, Lonwabo would love to have an office to work from.
Currently, she does not have one since she is unemployed and works from the eMbalenhle Library.
She would love to have a database of the children who have developmental signs so that she is able to refer them to the relevant doors.
“Autistic children do not have fear of exploring and it leads to them getting lost as they can just walk not knowing where they are going, but for them is fun.
“Most parents can see that not everything is ok with the child, but they keep on hoping that they will be fine as they grow up.
“Not every parent can afford to take their children for therapy, but if we have a database of how many children need therapy, one can approach places like Evander Hospital to organize a therapist for them on specific days,” said Lonwabo
Here are some of the signs of social difficulties:
•Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or what’s going on around them
•don’t know how to connect with others, play, or make friends
•Prefers not to be touched, held or cuddled
•don’t play “pretend” games, engage in group games, imitate others, or use toys in creative ways
•Has trouble understanding feelings or talking about them
•don’t seem to hear when others talk to him or her
•don’t share interests or achievements with others (drawings, toys)
Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with an autism spectrum disorder. Many kids on the autism spectrum seem to prefer to live in their own world, aloof and detached from others.