Autism Spectrum Disorders was first documented in 1943 but was thought to be a part of Schizophrenia. It was only
separated as a diagnosis in the 1980s. Autism is thus a relatively new disability and is as such an unknown disability.
Autism is a neuro-developmental disability that affects the way an individual makes sense of the world. Autism affects four
main areas of development: 1. Communication, 2. Social Interaction, 3. Sensory Processing, 4. Rigid and Repetitive
Behaviours. These areas of impairment have a major, pervasive effect of the functioning of individuals with autism.
Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning that the range of functioning varies between each individual on the spectrum. On
one side of the spectrum there are individuals that will need full support for the rest of their lives and on the other side of
the spectrum are individuals who can function in main-stream society despite their areas of impairment.
International prevalence figures in 2012 indicated that 1 in 88 individuals are affected by autism. As the disability
becomes more known, this figure is dramatically increasing (In the US, incidence has increased to 1 in 56, CDC, 2014).
Considering South Africa’s population of over 52 million individuals, we estimate that just under 600 000 individuals in
South Africa have Autism!
These individuals however remain undiagnosed and unsupported, living a life in a world that is overwhelming and
extremely stressful. They remain without support and intervention due to the lack of awareness about Autism in our
country. Autism is not understood and often misperceived to be a cultural punishment or religious affliction. This stigma
results in further isolation and commonly abuse of individuals living with Autism.
At Autism Limpopo, besides lobbying government for services (less than 1% of our children are in any type of educational
facility) we strive to create awareness in our communities, educate those with and those working with Autism and
empower and build capacity in our communities so that Autism is understood and embraced as diversity not a disease. The
awareness, education and capacity building will encourage an inclusive society. By doing this individuals with Autism will
be accepted and abusive situations will be prevented in the future. Individuals with Autism will be afforded the same
opportunities for inclusion, education and employment as every other individual in South Africa.