Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Merafhe opens Botswana‘s first centre for children with Autism

Botswana Vice president Mompati Merafhe surprised attendants at an opening ceremony when he made a donation of P5000 on impulse to a recently launched developmental centre.

Early last week, Merafhe was the officiator for the opening of Botswana’s first developmental centre for children with autism.

Autism refers to “a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior”. Apparently, all these signs begin before a child is three years old.

The centre, which was opened on the 11th of May, is the first of its kind in Botswana and is referred to as the Dinaletsana Developmental Centre. The centre promises to cater for the needs of children with neuro-developmental problems and autism throughout the country.

The problems they will be confronted with include, learning difficulties and other disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder, Emotional/behavioral difficulties, Language Delays, Poor Self-Image, Autism/Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Down’s Syndrome and other forms of disabilities.

The premises they are currently operating from was donated by Fateema Khan, complete with water and electricity. The centre has opened an account with Stanbic Bank and has been receiving donations from companies, such as Nomad business group of Botswana, Eve’s Club, amongst others.
The centre strives to offer services for children with autism from early childhood until early adulthood.

Services it promises to deliver are that of Parent education, developmental assessments, neuro-developmental assessments, consultation, counselling, indoor therapeutic play facilities, remedial projects and outreach programmes.

At the opening, Merafhe said that the establishment of the centre was a welcome initiative as it was well within the vision 2016 pillar of a compassionate and caring nation.

“As you all know, parliament has given me the responsibility of driving the poverty and development initiative, therefore it impresses me to come across projects of Dinaletsana’s nature. It’s driven by voluntarism and the spirit of generosity,” said Merafhe.

He said that he regretted the fact that a bill on disability has not been brought before parliament. However, he urged humanitarian associations to strive to attain partnerships with government in their future projects.

Kim Beckett, who was responsible for raising money for the project, said that almost everyone involved in Dinaletsana had a full time job, adding that but children at the Center required more time adapting than the average child.

Beckett said that dealing with a child who had autism was time consuming and costly for the parents, especially Batswana parents who have had to travel all the way to South Africa to receive treatment for their children. She said that their overall objective was to try to raise funding for children whose parents cannot afford to pay for expert and medical services.

“Stage 1 of the three stage plan of action that we offer is for assessment of the child and that alone could cost a parent P11 000. At stage 2, we hope to employ a speech therapist as well as an occupational therapist. It is at this stage that we hope to employ a permanent management team. The last stage is to try and have all disciplines under one roof,” said Beckett.

Meanwhile, the chairperson and occupational therapist for Dinaletsana, Frida Brahmbhatt-Deurwaarder, said that they are waiting for a response from the Ministry of Health because they had applied for registration as a day care centre. She too stressed the costs involved for parents in taking care of an autistic child.


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