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Health screening to mark Autism Month in Joburg


As World Autism Month enters its third week, the City of Johannesburg has lined up several regional workshops to heighten awareness of autism, a condition that results from a neurological disorder affecting the functioning of the brain.

Spearheaded by the Office of the Speaker, Councillor Connie Bapela, World Autism Month kicked off with the lighting of the iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge in Braamfontein on the eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

“When we switched on the blue light across the Nelson Mandela Bridge, we joined the rest of the world in putting autism in the spotlight. This is the City of Johannesburg’s way of helping reduce the stigma associated with autism, embracing people living with the condition and educating residents on early detection,” Councillor Bapela said.

City health officials will conduct a workshop at Region B’s Coronationville Recreational Centre on Thursday April 23.

On Friday April 24 the officials will descend on Alexsan Kopano Community Centre in Alexandra, Region E, for another workshop.Similar activities will take place in other regions. An educational campaign will also be rolled out to place increased focus on the condition.

“There will be speakers who will address residents on autism, how to detect it and how to look after people living with the condition. Aerobics classes will also be conducted as part of the Healthy Lifestyle Programme and people will be screened for high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and prostate and cervical cancer,” said the City’s Deputy Director: Public Health, Mary Daka.

To round off World Autism Month activities, the City will stage an 8km fun run/walk in the Johannesburg inner city on Sunday May 3.

Autism South Africa has compiled a list of possible signs of the condition to help parents and caregivers detect it early in children:

No babbling at 11 months;
No simple gestures (e.g. waving bye-bye) at 12 months;
No single words at 16 months;
No two-word phrases at 24 months;
No response when name is called;
Loss of any language or social skills at any age;
Rarely makes eye contact when interacting with people;
Does not play peek-a-boo;
Does not point to show things he/she is interested in;
Rarely smiles socially;
Interested in looking at objects than at people’s faces;
Prefers to play alone;
Does not make attempts to get parents’ attention;
Does not look when someone is pointing at something;
Seems to be “in his/her own world”;
Odd or repetitive ways of moving fingers or hands;
Over-sensitive to certain textures, sounds or lights;
A lack of interest in toys, or plays with them in an unusual way;
Compulsions or rituals; and
Preoccupations with unusual interests, such as light switches, doors, fans and wheels.