The Ernie Els Centre for Autism South Africa Newsletter – June 2016

15 Jun

Latest news from The Ernie Els Centre for Autism in SA, providing lower resourced families of children on the autism spectrum with free access to effective education for their child via e-learning programs.

1. Pearl Valley #GameON Clinic & Golf Day Fundraiser
This autumn season, Els for Autism and Pearl Valley Golf Club teamed up to host a fun-filled golf day on 20 May in Franschhoek to raise funds for the Foundation. The day started off with one of our #GameON clinics (pictured above), made all the more enjoyable by the rain subsiding and the sun coming out. Els for Autism personnel, along with SNAG and PGA pros, helped host the clinic for the kids from the local Boland School for Autism. The kids enjoyed the exciting activities and were all awarded with a medal.

Meanwhile, the Pearl Valley golf day involved 120 players partaking in a 12pm shotgun start and all received an Ernie Els goodie bag, including Ernie Els Wines, water from Chamonix and Els for Autism caps and pins. After the golf, players were invited to a dinner and prize giving at the club and were entertained by singer, Viljoen Retief.

Master of Ceremonies and former Tour Pro and longtime friend of Ernie Els, Nico Van Rensburg, led the evening’s proceedings with some interesting stories. Lizelle from the Boland School of Autism talked about the school’s development and their plans, while Shani Lits, Director of The Ernie Els Centre for Autism, informed the crowd about the Foundation’s plans going forward.

“Els for Autism are so very grateful for the funds raised at the auction and want to thank each person for their participation,” commented Shani Lits. “We are very excited to host our second golf day at Pearl Valley next year, on 17 May 2017. Put the date in your diary! We look forward to seeing you there.”

2. ‘Drive to the SA Open’ pays a visit to Pretoria Country Club
On 25 May, Els for Autism visited Pretoria Country Club for one of 11 tournaments that form part of our ‘Drive to the SA Open’ series run by Nico Van Rensberg, former Tour Pro and longtime friend of Ernie Els. The winners of each regional tournament wins a place in the Grand Final at the Ernie Els designed Highland Gate Golf Club in November.

On what turned out to be a warm winter’s day, Athol Dowie and Vivien Van Wyk were our kind hosts for our second Els for Autism day of the year at this beautiful golf course. As always, the course was in prime condition! Notables playing in the event were Rudolf Straulie (ex-Springbok and Blue Bulls player and current Director of Rugby at the Golden Lions), Johan Heunis (ex-Springbok and Blue Bulls player) and Swys De Bruys (assistant coach at Golden Lions rugby). All expressed how much they enjoyed the day, especially Rudolf Straulie who was playing with his dad.

Steff and Luca Brachinni of Ferrari and Celcom group also joined in, further contributing to the joy of the event. The scoring was excellent and after not wanting to walk the 18 holes and complaining about not having a cart, Derek Bekker and Swys De Bruin scored an impressive 48 points to claim first prize and thus qualify for the final at Highland Gate. Maybe we all should walk more often!

See story No.5 below for more information on ‘Drive to the SA Open’.

3. Siblings That Are Really Special (STARS) Group update
“Stop thinking about normal…You don’t have a big enough imagination for what your child can become,” – Johnny Seitz, autistic tightrope artist.

Although we still were open to all families and loved ones who have a family member on the Autism Spectrum, 21 May saw the second instalment of the STARS (Siblings That Are Really Special) support group for 2016, and things were a little bit different. In honour of the hard work that fathers do when raising their children, we decided that for this support group, they would stay with the children. This was met with very little resistance from the mothers in attendance, as they realized they would have the parent support group all to themselves. During this group, mothers discussed the importance of the role of the father figure in the family and how different that concept is in South Africa. However, mothers left the group realizing the importance of this male influence and how important it is when it comes to teaching our children through modelling.

Later, the dads and siblings reconnected while completing some basic Makaton training, given by Makaton (sign language specific for individuals with Autism) tutor Jackie Patterson, and then utilizing it through the rest of the group activities. A range of activities and tasks were prepared for the children and these had to be completed with the assistance of the fathers, but using NO VERBAL communication. In an attempt to illustrate what their siblings with ASD may experience, all activities had to be completed using Makaton signs only.

“For the first time since this group was started last year, I can say that the success of the event was echoed in the deafening silence of the training room,” commented Shani Lits, Director of The Ernie Els Centre for Autism. “So much fun was had by all in attendance, and it’s clear that many feel more empowered by being given the tools to start communicating with their children and siblings non-verbally. Thanks to JHS and ASA for helping the Ernie Els Centre in making this special event happen.”

4. 2016 Cycle Challenge: Be part of Ernie’s Army and support autism
It’s that time of the year again! For the third year in a row, The Ernie Els Centre for Autism will have a team in the upcoming 947 Cycle Challenge. We’d love you to join Ernie’s Army. The benefit of being part of our team far exceeds the joy of riding, or even being given an earlier start time. Not only will you be given a chance to raise some money (a minimum of R1500) that directly benefits local families in receiving supportive services, but you will also be contributing to this unique opportunity to increase awareness and understanding around the Autism Spectrum Disorder in South Africa.

In order to join our Els for Autism team, each rider needs to register on the 947 Cycle Challenge 2016 website: Once you have done this, please fill in the attached letter (which includes your full name and ID number, along with your signature stating your commitment to support Els for Autism) and send to We will then send you a confirmation of your entry to our team. Further details regarding Back-A-buddy, possible prizes for the most funds raised, and other admin issues will be discussed.

Please note our team will not appear on the Ride for a Purpose website until we have 20 confirmed riders.

It is important to note that raising funds for charities through this event is the primary goal of this incredible initiative. The power of this challenge is made clear by the fact that over R15.4 million was raised in 2015 by the 127 charities that registered for the event. This year is going to be our biggest team yet, filled with many familiar faces and some lovely prizes for those who are able to raise the most amount of money. Remember you can choose to raise the money however you wish. For any queries, please email

5. Els for Autism is expanding its services both locally and abroad
The opening of a satellite office located in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (DCAP) in Cape Town brings welcome added support to the autism community in that area. Meanwhile, Els for Autism, which has its physical hub at The Els Center of Excellence in Florida, continues to expand its global reach through a series of world-class Webinars as part of its groundbreaking E-learning series. For information on upcoming webinars please visit the website:

The Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (DCAP), situated opposite the Rondebosch Common on a very pleasant and ‘child and family friendly’ site, is led by a multi-disciplinary team comprising child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychologists, clinical social workers, occupational therapists, psychiatric nurses, a teacher and trainees specialising in child and adolescent psychiatry.

The Division partakes in several services that comprise of clinical services, consultation, education, training and research. The Division Chair, Professor PJ de Vries, leads several active research programmes that involve The Adolescent Health Research Unit, Centre for Autism Research in Africa, Tuberous Sclerosis Research Programme and a staff Research Development Programme.

Amongst Professor de Vries’ interests throughout the Division, he is one of the primary supervisors for the facilitator in the Cape Town, Ernie Els Centre for Autism, satellite office. This centre aims at providing families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with comprehensive training and guidance on how to use best practices in education and autism treatment to teach their child. This service is a free of charge, technology based solution aimed to empower the lower-resourced autism community of Cape Town.

For the remainder of 2016, the goals of this satellite Cape Town office are to assist 15-20 families, with children diagnosed with ASD up to 10 years old. Families wanting to attend the service do not need to have any prior knowledge of ASD or Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA). However, at least one family member needs to be willing to attend the training offered, carry out the teaching and record data. The families will also need to commit to the programme for at least 12 months, with one monthly session so that data can be collected effectively and progress can be monitored and altered to best suit the child. To contact the Cape Town office, email:



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