On October 20th, the First Lady of South Africa Tobeka Madiba Zuma welcomed members of Autism Speaks Global Autism Public Health initiative (GAPH) to the Presidential Residence, in Cape Town. There she received the GAPH South Africa Advisory Committee’s formal recommendations on the development of community awareness and empowerment, research, education, and training for the treatment of developmental disabilities in South Africa. Though the recommendations address the needs of all children with developmental disabilities, it focuses, in particular, on those with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
The committee and its work began with the launch of GAPH-South Africa at the landmark “Autism and Developmental Disabilities” conference in Durban, last November. That conference—co-sponsored by Autism Speaks and the College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal—brought together more than 200 autism researchers, advocacy workers, and government leaders from around the world.
The committee’s recommendations focus on creating a broad array of practical and accessible programs and policies to address the needs of all children with developmental disabilities including ASDs in South Africa. It acknowledges the need for collaboration between governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, medical institutions, parent groups, and other advocacy and professional associations involved in the care and well being of children with developmental disabilities in South Africa.
“We couldn’t be more grateful to Madame Zuma for opening the doors to her home and for her understanding and sensitivity to the daily struggles of the South African autism community,” says Autism Speaks Associate Director of Public Health Research and Scientific Review Michael Rosanoff, MPH. “Working with local leadership in research and in advocacy, including Dean Essack and Jill Stacey, gives us a powerful and unified voice in the fight against autism in South Africa. Collaboration with government can further strengthen this movement toward meaningful and lasting solutions for the South African autism community.”
In photo, from left to right, Autism Speaks Associate Director of Public Health Research and Scientific Review Michael Rosanoff, Autism Speaks Scientific Advisory Board member Ezra Susser, National Director of Autism South Africa Jill Stacy, Madam Zuma, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Dean of Health Sciences Sabiha Essack.