Before Lethabo le Khutso (LLK) opened its doors in Pretoria, there were only two autism-specific centres for adults in South Africa, both of which are in the Cape Province. The only option for local parents was to send their children to institutions where they were either locked away, or placed in an environment that does not understand or cater for the unique needs of a person with autism. It was a terrible choice. Mothers felt like they were abandoning their children.
Tsoane Mtshali, then past part-time fundraiser for The Association for Autism, and parent to an autistic child, approached The Transnet Foundation for funding, explaining that the Association for Autism in Pretoria had been battling since mid-1980's to raise funds for people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).
Transnet's corporate social investment programme was so sensitive to the ASD plight that they donated R300 000.00 towards this facility, and Autism South Africa matched this donation rand for rand.
No time was wasted in establishing Lethabo Le Khutso, where the ongoing educational needs for adults with ASD were prioritized.
LLK became a home away from home for adults with Autism, who previously were left with nowhere to go upon completion of their schooling. Today 29 beneficiaries are registered for vocational and/or residential services provided by LLK.
Statistics prove that Autism is almost a pandemic now, with 1 in every 67 children born with Autism. As Autism is a lifelong disability, the child with Autism becomes the adult with Autism. In spite of these troubling figures, minimal services are available, leaving facilities such as LLK in high demand with long waiting lists.
Expansion and future developments of LLK are thus not simply options, but rather dire needs for adults with Autism, and must be prioritized at all costs.