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Is Autism in South Africa increasing?

Is Autism in South Africa increasing?

For many it may feel like Autism in South Africa and worldwide is on the increase…  At the outset, we must agree that the Autism diagnosis has become far more common in recent years.  But is this because more children are being born with Autism or because of a different reason?  Can it be as a result of greater awareness and evaluation opposed to a true change in incidence?

Autism Statistics

In 2018 the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) released statistics that said that about 1 in 59 children in the United States have ASD.  Experts are now saying that better diagnostic testing is part of the reason for the increase in prevalence.

Mom of an Autist – we’ve been there

As the mother of a 12 year old Autist I can attest to the following:

  • Ten years ago when my child was not speaking at age 2 – I was told that we must not be worried, she will talk.
  • We finally got a diagnosis at age 4 and even then we were given a book to read and then make a follow up appointment.  The outcome of the appointment was “does what is written in the book sound like your child?”  We said yes and we got our diagnosis.
  • At this stage I have to add that my daughter is profoundly Autistic.  She has what is referred to as Classic Autism.  She remains non-verbal.  In other words she was clearly Autistic from the day she was born.

I remember in the beginning we could not find anybody to talk to.  Nobody really knew anything about Autism!  The schools we put her in were quick to kick her out and they all just said she was “not ready for school”.  Nobody even mentioned non-verbal and Autism in the same sentence.

Autism Awareness South Africa

This has gradually changed.  The Autism community in Johannesburg and in the rest of South Africa has become quite active.  Autism awareness walks and big campaigns over the month of April have helped make people more aware of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).   Associations like ASA (Autism South Africa) do incredible work to promote Autism Awareness and offers training to educators and health workers. 

Today Autism is known!  Somehow everybody knows somebody that has an Autism Spectrum Disorder or Aspergers.  We’re getting better at identifying the early signs of Autism and that in our opinion is the reason for the increase in the prevalence.

Ilse Kilian-Ross founded Amazing K, a School for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Centre for Applied Behaviour Intervention (ABA), in Johannesburg in 2014.

Amazing K offers Individualized Education Programs, ABA, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.