World Autism Day is observed on 2 April and is observed by wearing the colour blue.
The centre was started by occupational therapist, Rozanna Riback in 2011 to address the need in South African society for a dedicated school for children with autism.
According to Krishen Samuel, therapy director at the organisation, pupils come from far and wide to attend the school based in Dunkeld.
“We have pupils that hail from all over the country at the school, and also quite a few that come from other African countries,” Samuel said.
He mentioned that there was very little autism awareness in the rest of Africa, and especially in the rural areas of South Africa. Samuel added that the statistics of children born with autism is on the rise, and currently one in 68 children are born with the condition. However, no cause has yet been identified as to why autism occurs.
Lack of education and awareness has made the world a harsh place for autistic children as well as their families.
“There have been many cases, in rural communities, of people believing that an autistic child is possessed or is cursed in some way,” he said.
“And even in a modern and urban city, people often see an autistic child that’s perceived to be misbehaving in public and judge their parents, thinking that it’s just a naughty child.”
Samuel said the decision to hold the World Autism Day event at a shopping centre was a deliberate to address the misguided public perception that autistic children are just naughty.
“There are many generalisations and myths about children with autism,” Samuel said.
“For example, many people believe that autistic children are not affectionate – but actually many of the children at our school love hugs and cuddles. Autistic children want social interaction, even if they don’t know how to go about getting it.”