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Jozi puts autism in the spotlight


The City of Johannesburg will shine the spotlight on people living with autism when it lights the iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge in Braamfontein for two hours on Thursday April 2.

The occasion will kick-start Autism Month to create or heighten awareness on the condition.

April 2 was unanimously declared World Autism Awareness Day by United Nations General Assembly eight years ago with the aim of improving the quality of life of children and adults affected by the condition so they can lead full and meaningful lives. Autism results from a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, mostly affecting children and adults irrespective of gender, race or socioeconomic status.

It is characterised by impairments in social interaction, problems with verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted, repetitive behaviour, interests and activities. The stigmatisation and discrimination associated with the illnesses remain substantial obstacles to diagnosis and treatment. Figures from Autism South Africa show that one in 99 children are affected by autism and the signs of speech impairments can be observed around the age of three. If detected early, autism can be corrected and those who have it can go on to lead normal lives.

Tomorrow’s event at the Nelson Mandela Bridge will take place between 6pm and 8pm.

“One of the main reasons the City is involved in creating awareness around autism is to remove the stigma that people living with the condition have to endure everyday of their lives. It will also offer support to their families and caregivers and educate the public that this has nothing to do with witchcraft,” said Member of the Mayoral Committee for Health and Social Development Clr Nonceba Molwele.

The City will from 15 April to 24 April conduct community workshops on autism in all seven regions. To round off the month’s activities, it will stage an 8km run/walk in the inner city and conduct health screening on 3 May with the Dr Love Foundation, Autism South Africa and FEED.

“All these activities we have planned with other stakeholders allow the City to reach out to as many residents as possible to change people’s perceptions on differently abled individuals who should be allowed to lead normal lives in society,” MMC Molwele said.