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Taking ‘action’ in autism

The centre's main objective is to improve the quality of life for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their caregivers.

WHEN Zayna Mirza described her journey with Action in Autism she brought the crowd to tears. Mirza was one of the guest speaker’s at last Saturday’s event, where MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works Ravi Pillay, officially opened the Action in Autism Centre in Parkhill, Durban North.

The event was attended by people from all walks of life who are in one way or another affected by autism. Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.

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Their main objective is to improve the quality of life for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their caregivers by building partnerships between people with ASD, their families and the community to provide information, services, learning and research.

A graduate of the centre, Mirza said the centre helped her find her voice.

“At four and a half years old I was quite a handful. I couldn’t speak, was in nappies and wouldn’t sit still. In 2011 my parents brought me to Action in Autism, that’s when everything changed. Action in Autism helped me find my voice. I started speaking, reading and I got potty trained. The best part is it helped my parents understand me too. Being in Action in Autism is a lot of fun, we have break time, speech therapy. I was used to being alone but once I could talk, I made friends,” said an ecstatic Mirza.

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The centre provides families with comprehensive services such as information on autism, a list of health care professionals that service people with autism, and a comprehensive list of schools for people with autism. They also support families in accessing a diagnosis, accessing a social grant, and accessing an educational facility to cater for the specific needs of their child.

Giving history on where Action in Autism comes from Mthokozisi Mchunu said, “We’ve had shelters or shacks as some may call them. We’ve rented properties and now we’re here.”

eThekwini deputy mayor Fawzia Peer, who also attended the launch, said: “Autism cases are on the rise due to better awareness and better diagnosis. Therefore it is important that we give much needed support to existing autism organisations in autism care, for their sustainability.”

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Chairperson of the Action in Autism board and one of the founding members Lisa Aziz said: “The road leading to this milestone has not been an easy one.”

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