Autism in South Africa
Autism is a prevalent topic of conversation in South Africa. With the burden of HIV, Malaria and other diseases, mental health is very much neglected.
There are many families, like mine, with loved ones on the autism spectrum who worry about their futures. As a society, autism is highly misunderstood. We have a huge shortage of places where those with autism can go once they reach adulthood.
Few Solutions for Autistic Adults
There are some private residential homes for adult autistic males but none for females in the Cape Province. That’s a huge problem for our family, because I have an autistic sister. There are a few institutions that cater to adults with developmental disabilities, but they are not suitable for ASD adults. They provide little or no organized activities and insufficient staff. Often they won’t even admit ASD adults as they are considered too complicated and difficult to handle. Sadly, they often stipulate compulsory medication to keep them under control.
Creating Our Own Solution
So how do we families face the challenge of our loved ones becoming adults? How do we give them our undivided attention and the support they require long term? These are the questions my mother and I are determined to answer.
My sister Mikayla is autistic and she has the most incredible ability of remembering childhood stories that, even my family will forget about. She is well aware of what is going on around her, but often it appears as if she has a sudden short circuit in the brain that prevents her from speaking her mind; a glitch that holds back her full potential. She is a highly emotional person and her behaviours can change from extreme opposites in a short space of time.
Mikayla needs a place that will stimulate her mind, provide her with structure, and allow her to grow and thrive in a safe environment.
The Safe Haven Dream of Mikayla House
My mother and I have taken the daunting task upon ourselves to open up a home for Mikayla and other autistic adults (primarily females) to stay and be looked after in a positive manner. We’re calling it “Mikayla House,” a home that will be a “safe haven” for a population in South Africa that is highly misunderstood and neglected.
Our dream is to create a 5-star environment. Mikayla House will be a place for those who simply need a place to go for the day, or a place to live-in 24/7. We will offer massage therapy, high-quality food, and structure. We want to provide lots of stimulation and activities such as walks, swimming, ball games, fun outings, and table top activities to enhance fine-motor skills such as puzzles, beading and jewellery making. We can teach skills such as baking, gardening, and music.
Our aim is to treat our guests and residents with respect and dignity. Overall, we wish to create a happy place for these adults where they can explore and be properly cared for. We want to bring peace of mind to the families in South Africa who want a beautiful future for their autistic loved ones.
Adults with autism in South Africa deserve better futures. We won’t stop until the dream of Mikayla House is a reality.
**Rowan Nelsen, his mother, and their team of dedicated, inspired, trained and compassionate people are determined to build “Mikayla House,” a 5-star safe, nurturing residence for adults with autism. Follow their journey and support their efforts by liking them on their Facebook Page.