When he was two years old, Tebogo Mosarwe knew her son was different from other children his age. Unlike other children, he was hyper active and did not make an effort to utter words or show signs that he understood anything communicated to him. This worried the mother. She began looking for specialised treatment to understand her son’s condition. “As he grew up, the challenges became more elaborate,” the mother of three says. She could not maintain house helps as they left one after the other. Her social life also took a nosedive. She started to stay away from friends. Not because she wanted to, but because her son was hyper active. And most people would not be comfortable with that. “We took him to a kinder garden and there were always complaints. The teachers could not handle him,” she said. Due to the challenges and the added responsibilities, Mosarwe resigned from her job.
She opted for self-employment. In this way, she could have time to focus on her child. Her experience is that raising a child with autism is a constant challenge. “It is a full time job that one cannot delegate to someone else. As the child grows, the demands also increase.” There are times he is calm but many are the sleepless nights when he stays awake, cries and throws things around the house. “It is at this point that parental love comes handy,” she says with a warm smile. As difficult and frustrating as the experience of raising a special needs child can get sometimes, it has made Mosarwe realise how strong she is.
“I have learnt about my own strengths. I have learnt how deep love can be,” she admits. With support from her husband, they have now been able to take their son to a special school that takes care of children with special needs. The boy is now four years old. He presents himself like a normal child but still has his moments. “There has been amazing progress. He can feed himself now, undress and even go to the toilet by himself,” says the visibly proud Mosarwe. Slowly, she is redeeming her bubbly personality. She is a member of a support group of parents of children with autism. Here, they encourage and comfort each other. “Creating awareness and giving unconditional love to children with this disorder is the first step towards helping them,” she narrates with a captivating smile.
Ambrose Academy School in Mogoditshane trains children with special needs. It currently has 36 children between the ages of two and 11 years presenting different conditions from Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Down Syndrome to those with hearing impairment among others. School Head, Irina Ivanova, a sweet slow talking woman of Eastern Europe stock, has a word of counsel regarding children with special needs.
“They should not be hidden from the community. Instead, they need individualised education plans.” says the Ivanova.This plan, she says, is a strategy outlining objectives; how they will be executed; who is involved, for example, therapist, nutritionist, parents, siblings and so forth; so that they can work as a team to achieve desired results.
“Autism presents itself at different levels, this may be mild to extreme and this is where a doctor comes in to educate about the condition if the behaviour of the child gets out of control,” she adds. Although financially distressed, the school boasts four teachers including experts, such as clinicians, therapists and nutritionists, who come on a need to basis. It is estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that one out of every 68 children worldwide is affected by Autism. Mosarwe emphasised the need to love children with autism because love conquers all.