‘I was crying alone inside’
After enduring agony and frustration when she discovered her daughter was autistic, Christinah Maragelo put everything on hold to understand the condition. This brought not only relief to her, but she also developed a deeper understanding of autism.
“As a mother of an autistic daughter. I always say I would not have known about this condition if I didn’t have a child with the autism spectrum.
I only discovered when she was three years old, when my sister Lesedi told me to Google autism. But all along I could see my child’s milestones were delayed. At first I was in denial and frustrated. I was ashamed to go out with her, because I was always crying when people asked me questions about my little girl, such as: ‘What condition does she have? Have you taken her to any doctors?’ Some even said I should take her to traditional healers or to the prophets.
My self-esteem dropped; I was crying alone inside. I didn’t want to believe that she is autistic, and I didn’t want to talk about her condition. I looked for a special school for autistic kids and I even closed my business to become a hands-on mother. I learned more about autism and focused on her strong points. I also wrote a book about the journey I have taken, and am still taking with my autistic little girl.
I came to know and understand some of the signs related to the condition. For instance, the kids have difficulties in social interaction and communication; they have repetitive patterns. They love covering their ears and humming. From the age of three they walk on their tippy toes, they avoid eye contact and like to be alone. They do not respond to their names; have extreme anxiety or phobias; and get upset by minor changes.
Every year, babies are born [with the] autism spectrum or Asperger’s syndrome, and there are few government schools in the country for these conditions. There are over 5 000 kids on the waiting list around the country who cannot be admitted at government schools. My wish is to see more affordable schools for autistic kids, and more support for autism every year.”
Christinah Maragelo is the author of the book The Fearless Mother