Autism still associated with witchcraft

The Autism Association of Namibia last week told The Villager that people living with autism are still struggling to be accepted into the Namibian society despite the awareness created by the association, said founder and coordinator, Petra Dillmann.
“Namibians do not know much about autism and people usually still think that their children are bewitched or that it is the family’s fault and all that,” Dillmann said.
According to Dillmann, Namibia still has a long way to go in terms of offering adequate facilities to special needs children such as those autism.
“We do not have enough classrooms for ordinary children so for any disorder whether its autism or another disability the classrooms, teachers or schools would be fewer,” she said.
The association is made up of parents who have children living with autism, adults living with autism as well as professionals who have an interest in the association and promote the well-being of people with autism Namibia; and provides a network between the various autism organisations world-wide..
Speech therapists Jomari Jurgens confirmed to the fact that autism is Namibia is still an uninformed matter to the public.
“People are not well informed on autism and its symptoms and what it entails, and that if they are very informed then they will understand the disorder, and be more acceptable but now they just see the children as not having manners or the parents not being strict enough to their children,”
According to Jurgens, Namibia does not have enough facilities to cater for special needs children who suffer from different disorders.
“Namibia definitely does not have the proper facilities especially in the state sector. There are currently two state special need schools for the whole country and they can’t even take care of Windhoek alone, let alone the whole country, so they are definitely not capable of meeting the needs of the whole country, ” she said.
Speaking under anonymity, a nurse from the Oshakati State hospital states that autism is still a challenge in both children affected with autism and the parents in the Namibian society.
“Children with autism usually take time to find balance in life as they feel like they do not fit in the environment and find it hard to make friends and sometimes feel left out in terms of finding acceptance in the society but they have a good sense of intelligence which a lot of people do not realize it yet,” he said.
Autism usually manifests itself during the first three years of a person’s life, but it is often only picked up in children during the early stage as toddlers or when children start attending preschool. When a child has an autism disorder, their developmental challenges come to the fore sight when they are confronted with the demands of the mainstream education system and require the attention of special need teachers and educators to assist with their learning development.