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South Africa Honors World Autism Day with Health Initiatives

World Autism Awareness Day – 02 April

The Department of Health is calling on families and communities to show support for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), also known as autism, in order to help them thrive and reach their full potential without facing discrimination.

Autistic individuals, as well as their parents and caregivers, often encounter various challenges. However, these challenges should not define them, as they have the same health needs and rights as the general population. They may also have specific health-care needs related to autism or other co-occurring conditions that require attention, support, and care.

All people, including those with autism, have the right to enjoy the highest possible standard of physical and mental health. Unfortunately, individuals with autism are often subjected to stigma and discrimination, which can lead to the denial of care, education, and opportunities to engage in communities.

They have unique physical, social, mental health care, and educational needs due to their conditions. This calls for strong collaborative efforts with other government departments, such as Basic Education and Social Development, to provide comprehensive services for early detection and intervention of ASD to improve overall health outcomes and reduce the long-term burden and costs of care.

South Africa will be joining the global community on Tuesday, 2 April to raise awareness about autism and how we can better support individuals with autism in society.

This awareness day aims to empower the public, health and welfare service providers with information, dispel misconceptions, and promote a deeper understanding of autism to reduce stigma and discrimination, creating a more inclusive environment for individuals with autism and their families.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1 in every 100 children worldwide has autism. In South Africa, local studies have found the prevalence of autism to be between 0.08% to 2%, with males being more affected than females.

Autism may be a lifelong condition, but with appropriate and tailored support, children and adults with autism can make significant progress and lead fulfilling lives.

While the use of standardized ASD screening and diagnostic tools is well-established in high-income countries, early diagnosis and intervention are crucial. Parents are encouraged to monitor their child’s health and development using tools such as the Road to Health Booklet or Clinic Card issued at birth.

Early diagnosis and intervention can have a significant impact on a child’s development, helping families understand their child’s strengths and challenges to create a personalized treatment and support plan. Although there is no cure for autism spectrum disorders, medications can help manage symptoms and co-occurring conditions.

If you suspect that you or a family member may have autism spectrum disorder, seek screening and assessment at your nearest health care facility. Symptoms and causes of autism may vary, but early intervention and support at family, community, and societal levels are essential for a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals with autism.

This content is distributed by APO Group on behalf of the Republic of South Africa: Department of Health.


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