Autism South Africa (ASA) representatives Vicky Lamb and Antoinette Bruce-Alexander were in Port Elizabeth this week and met Autism Eastern Cape chair Joan Jorritsma and committee members Gillian McAinsh and Chantel Snyman for a chat over coffee in Walmer.
Vicky and Antoinette were in Port Elizabeth to present a Hands On Autism training course to delegates sent by the Department of Education. Psychology honours graduate Vicky is ASA’s education officer and started her career at Victory Kids here in Port Elizabeth, while Antoinette is the regional development officer (RDO) for ASA in East London.
ASA only has one representative in the Eastern Cape, and members of the public sometimes are confused as there is an Autism Eastern Cape in Port Elizabeth (that’s us at this website!) and an Autism South Africa Eastern Cape in East London (that’s Antoinette!).
We are separate independent organisations but AEC is affiliated to ASA.
The good news is that there are TWO major centres in this province which actively strive to give information and support to families living with autism. We are working towards a similar vision.
It was most constructive to learn how many issues we share in common and to know that we are working together for the same cause. Sadly, however, many challenges we face in Port Elizabeth are also challenges in East London, and in Johannesburg where Vicky is based.
Lack of government funding, as well as state educational facilities are an ongoing concern, as is the lack of after school intervention. As Antoinette filled us in, there are limited facilities in East London for autistic pupils and none of the schools has hostel facilities. On the plus side, the state school College Street last year became a special needs school, with a focus on autism as well as hearing and language impaired learners.
In addition to being the RDO for ASA in this province, Antoinette also runs an early intervention centre in Cambridge, called Autism Sinethemba. This is aimed at pre-school children and has been running successfully for many years, with an enrollment of 30 this year and eight staff.
Last year Antoinette started a Saturday afternoon craft workshop at Autism Sinethemba, where young adults and their families meet to weave and roll old newspaper advertisements into functional items such as handbags. The workmanship on the handbag Antoinette brought was excellent and the group hope to generate some form of income by selling these bags.
It was great to connect and we look forward to seeing more of ASA!