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There’s lots happening at Els for Autism, South Africa. 

1. Celebrating Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month
The 2nd of April is sanctioned by the United Nations as autism awareness and acceptance day, so for us here at Els for Autism it makes sense to make the whole month a celebration. As with every year, there are so many initiatives and campaigns all around the world celebrating and raising awareness for autism. 

This year the team at Els for Autism, South Africa spent the 2nd of April in Phelang LSEN school in Kwa-Thema-Springs to celebrate with other organisations and the community at large. The event was attended by several organisations, including Autism South Africa, and the schools around Gauteng to help raise autism awareness in the community. 

The team also got to celebrate the month of April with Sizanani LSEN school; they had an autism celebration day in Bronkhorspruit, during which the learners put on an amazing show that included a marimba band and dancing. We were showered with gifts ranging from flowers to chocolates all prepared by the learners in the skills department. 

The team then attended and presented at the Special Education and Inclusive Learning conference that was help at the Gallagher estate in Boksburg, the theme being empowering educators and how that directly impacts the child. We are so thankful to PSM consulting for allowing us to be part of such an impactful event. 

Meanwhile, UNICA school for autism in Pretoria celebrated 40 years being the second oldest school in South Africa. They had a fun day of outdoor activities for the children, including a pride walk, and rounded off with a giant cake cutting and releasing of balloons. What a spectacle it was and we were thrilled to be a part of it. 

2. Vision Mission Initiative
We are delighted to share with you some exciting news about a recent partnership between Els for Autism South Africa and Ster-Kinekor, as we joined forces for the Vision Mission Initiative. This collaborative effort aims to address the vision needs of people across Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape. 

The primary objective of the Vision Mission Initiative was to provide free eye screening and testing to students in these provinces. This initiative not only aimed to identify potential vision issues but also took steps to rectify them by providing free glasses to those in need. We are pleased to announce that up to 200 learners participated in the screening process. Out of this group, it was discovered that 40 learners required glasses to improve their vision. Additionally, as part of this wonderful initiative, the learners were also invited to attend an autism-friendly movie screening at Ster-Kinekor Theatres. This experience offered a safe and inclusive environment for the students to enjoy a movie tailored to their unique needs, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable cinematic experience. 

3. Ernie Els #GameON Autism Golf Clinics
We are thrilled to share the news that we have successfully conducted two Ernie Els #GameON Autism Golf Clinics this year, aimed at providing an inclusive and enjoyable golfing experience for individuals on the autism spectrum. In February, we hosted our first golf clinic at the Stellenbosch Golf Club, inviting the students of Beacon School. It was a fantastic event filled with fun for all the learners involved. Following that, in June, we organized our second golf clinic at Prince’s Grant Golf Estate, inviting the Hands and Hearts Intervention Centre. Once again, it was a memorable day of golf for everyone!

Currently, we are running the Ernie Els #GameON Autism Golf Curriculum, a comprehensive program designed to integrate autism learning concepts into golf lessons. The curriculum spans 12 sessions and is conducted once a week at the Randpark Golf Course. Through this program, we aim to help participants achieve their individual golf successes while fostering confidence and self-esteem in a fun, supportive environment. By embedding evidence-based practices for teaching golf to individuals on the autism spectrum, we are committed to creating an inclusive golfing experience that embraces the unique strengths and abilities of each participant.

4. Visual Kits available from Els for Autism
As autistic individuals are very visual based, we wanted to empower our families with resources to help them navigate transitions and a reward system. We sent each of them a token board and also a car sticker for emergencies reading ‘autistic person on board, in case of emergency they may resist help’. We would like to thank Sign Works for sponsoring us with these stickers. We also added an Autism Awareness and Acceptance book written and drawn by Lindsey Carter, an autistic adult, in which she shares her experience as an autistic person. We would like to thank Autism South Africa for allowing us to share this with our families. For those who would like to order more copies of this colouring book please reach out to Autism South Africa. It retails for R80 and you can email to place your order. 

5. Teacher training with Els for Autism, South Africa
We completed a total of three teacher training sessions this last six months, with three different schools: Sizanani LSEN school, Chere Botha School, and UNICA school. In our teacher training we cover a lot of concepts on how to approach challenging behaviour in the classroom setting. It is an interactive four-part training program where we use practical examples replicating what happens in the school’s premises. We are grateful to all the schools that have allowed us into their spaces and we look forward to building long-lasting relationships together. If you know a school that would benefit from this training program, please contact Aretha at our Center. Contact details can be found at the bottom of this newsletter, thank you.

6. STARS (Siblings That Are Really Special)
In March and June, we hosted our latest quarterly siblings support groups – a collaboration alongside Autism South Africa, CARE, and the Johannesburg School for Autism – and dedicated to the needs of siblings of children with autism. It is a great opportunity for the siblings to talk about issues that may be confusing them, to learn more about what their autistic sibling is experiencing as a neurodiverse person. Mostly it is a space for them to meet other siblings and connect with people experiencing similar things. One was held at CARE and the other was held at the CMI building. We have two more coming up this year,  on the 2nd of September and the 11th of November. If you have never joined us, we encourage that you do. We run a parent support group simultaneously during that time.

7. Family Fun Day at Els for Autism
In June we held a family fun day in Cape town at the Toy Library and another n Johannesburg at Play Africa. The objective of these days is to create a safe and secure space for our families to enjoy play and fun together alongside their children. We were thrilled to have a big turn-out on both venues. We also want to expose families to places they can take their children to enjoy quality family time on the weekend.

8. Welcome to our newest Team Member
It is our pleasure to introduce our new team member Zain Bassa, an autistic adult who attended our pre-vocational program last year and is now part of our staff. We are very excited to have Zain as part of our team and are happy to let him introduce himself…

“My name is Zain Bassa. I am 21 years old and turn 22 in July. I live at home with my mom, dad and three dogs – Chuff Tuff and Fluff. I love playing golf every weekend. I am a member at The Wanderers Golf Club. I love going to the movies with my friends and family. I like action movies and comedy movies. At home I like listening to music and playing games on my iPad and iPhone. I enjoy going on holidays to do different countries and places.”

Welcome to the team Zain! 

9. Take Part in our Ernie Els Charities SA Golf Days
We have been very fortunate to have an outstanding 2023 Ernie Els Charities Golf Series so far. All our days have been fully booked and the support has been spectacular. We are very thankful and appreciative of all the money raised since the first golf day of our series, which this year kicked-off at St Francis Links in February. 

Our next golf day at Ebotse on the 31st of August is already fully booked, as well as the following golf days at Highland Gate and Silver Lakes. Wow! We are also very excited about our Premier Event at Leopard Creek on the 31st of October. Players purchased spots at our auctions in order to play at Leopard Creek. We are looking forward to an eventful day. The series will conclude at Sun City on the 22nd and 23rd of November. We are sincerely thankful for all of our sponsors as well as for each and every player who has played in our golf days and will be playing in the upcoming golf days!

10. Follow us on Social Media
These first six months of the year have been very busy but we at Els for Autism, South Africa are very grateful to get the opportunity to journey with you all. We want to finish the year strong! Remember to follow us on all our social media platforms for updates on what we are up to.

Instagram: @elsforautism_sa
Facebook: Els For Autism, South Africa
Twitter: @elsforautism_sa

Have a warm winter!

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