Autism: The Myths vs The Facts
JF Kennedy once said: “A child miseducated is a child lost”. In South Africa our constitution states that all children should get equal access to education. Upon closer inspection, we find however, that 1 out 110 children, diagnosed with a spectrum disorder, are sadly not given equal access to education nor do adequate facilities exist to cater for them. Children, that due to the nature of their developmental disability, require urgent early intervention (between the age of 2 and 6) in order to improve their prognosis and achieve their full potential.
These are the children living on the autism spectrum.
According to DSM IV diagnostic criteria, children with autism are identified by a qualitative impairment in social interaction, communication and restrictive or repetitive stereotyped behaviour. The obstacles facing these children and their families are extreme.
Not only are these children often misdiagnosed or diagnosed too late, intervention without government support is extremely expensive. Medical Aids still do not recognize the disability or provide funding support for it. On top of that not enough schools, trained professionals and facilities exist in South Africa to cater to the needs of a disability that has, according to the Department of Health, increased 500 % in the past 5 years.
In 20 years the outcomes will be dire for the SA economy if the private sector or government does not intervene now. If early intervention can be given, 48 % of these children can progress to leading productive lives and not end up as a burden on the state.
Part of the process in leading the way is to advocate the facts and disregard the myths. The following myths commonly exist about Autism: