Sewela Molewa is a mother to a four-year-old autistic boy who is currently undergoing therapeutic treatment.
Molewa said that it has been a long, hard and costly road to get the boy to where he is today, in terms of him responding to occurrences in his current environment.
Molewa was one of the parents invited to share their real life experiences in dealing with children afflicted with autism at the opening of Dinaletsana development centre.
The centre offers neuro-developmental services to children with autism. Molewa said that her child had been born a normal baby and there had been no indications that anything could be wrong with him. She said that by 12 months the child was walking and did normal things one would expect of an average child at that age.
There was no reason for them to believe that anything was wrong with their little boy, Sakhile.
Things started going wrong when Sakhile turned 16 months old, apparently he suddenly went quiet and wouldn’t respond to anything like he used to. The boy was lost in his own world and nothing the parents did caught his attention.
The situation headed for the worst at 18 months when the boy kept to himself and wouldn’t even want to play with other people, his older brother included.
“There were times when he would hurt himself badly and wouldn’t even cry. His father is Kalanga and he, therefore, just assumed that the boy had inherited his strong genes,” said Molewa.
She said that after some time with the boy’s unresponsive behavior, she started to feel concerned about her child. That is when a family member advised her to research about autism because the signs he had pointed towards autism.
She said that during her internet research escapades, the one thing that stood out to her about the syndrome was the fact that sometimes children were born normal and would then later regress. The signs she read about were present in her son’s behavior.
One day, out of the blue in December, the boy started becoming aware of his surroundings yet again. The parents‘ happiness was, however, short lived because in January he regressed again. That is when Molewa took him to a paeditrician who then referred her to a speech therapist.
“By this time, he was too energetic, throwing things around and pulling things everywhere. The therapist said that it was possible that nothing was wrong with him,“ said Molewa.
The parents took the paediatrician’s advice to take the child to nursery school where he would be exposed to a different environment.
A while later, the school owner called the parents and told them that the child would not participate in any activities, wouldn’t follow instructions and was unresponsive of his surroundings.
The owner was a qualified nurse and suggested that they call Frida Brahmbhatt-Deurwaarder.
Deurwaarder, who is an occupational therapist, could do nothing but assess the boy because she wasn’t allowed to diagnose him.
Molewa and her husband went to a neuro-developmental therapist in Johannesburg, and after that consulted a number of people.
At the end of the day, the common diagnosis was that the boy was autistic. After that, Sakhile started going for occupational therapy where he started to improve but he had to be moved to another school.
“He has improved a great deal with therapy. It takes a lot of work to bring up an autistic child. Parents, teachers, therapists and everyone else around him have to be involved in his upbringing. Sakhile had been in diapers until he was four years old, so one can see that extreme care and monitoring should be given to an autistic child,” said Molewa.
Although she is happy with the child’s progress, she sometimes worries about whether he will be able to attend primary school at the right age because he is improving but at a slow pace.
For other parents who couldn’t afford to pay for consultation and for therapy, Sakhile’s story could have been different. That is why Molewa stood to advocate for the Dinaletsana Center.
For more information on autism, or how donations could be made one can visit their Facebook page or call Kim Bekker at 71630755.