Home Health Parents call for autism-specific schools

Parents call for autism-specific schools


Story by Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor

CALLS have been made for the establishment of autism-specific schools to cater for children with autism as the majority are failing to thrive in ordinary schools.

With no parenting manual available, every parent is thrown into the deep end after the birth of a child, but the journey becomes tougher if the child has a disability.

With two children suffering from autism, the journey has not been easy for Mrs Sihle Nyashanu, but just like any mother, she chose to look ahead and is walking the autism journey with her two sons, Bradley and Derol.

“I have got two boys affected by autism and my youngest was on the severe end of the spectrum so for us to get a diagnosis was quite a challenge. I had to relocate to South Africa for 16 months and on coming back home I had a major challenge in terms of finding appropriate schooling for him.

“There were no autism-specific schools right about that time so that meant that I had to enrol my son in the special schools that are there but unfortunately he was not able to cope in that particular setting because he had specific things that were required for him. We found that he was now regressing and that resulted in me pulling him out of formal school and opting to home-school him,” she said.

From an administrator, Sihle switched careers to become an educationist, with a bias towards special education to help her children and other parents like her, giving birth to a private voluntary organisation, Safe Haven.

“I enrolled to do a bachelor’s in special education. Autism comes with a lot of behavioural and communication challenges and there are specific methodologies that need to be used when it comes to those affected by autism. After I realised that my son was not coping, the next logical step was for me to try and set up something for my son and other children in the same boat as him. When it comes to autism the approach is different from just saying this child has intellectual disabilities,” she said.

Offering basic academics and developmental skills for the children who could not fit into the mainstream education system, her small classes comprising children with moderate to severe autism have offered a haven for children who in most cases tend to be misunderstood by society.

From a small support group to a private voluntary organisation, Safe Haven has managed to transform the lives of many children with autism and is already in the process of registering with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.