Zekwande is a 12-year-old young man who is autistic and non-speaking, but he has an important message for the president… that he shouldn’t be under-estimated.
South Africa – Special needs South Africans are often under-estimated, but 12-year-old Zekwande** wants to change that narrative. While he may be non-speaking, he has a lot to say so he put it in a letter addressed to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Vicky Lamb from Autism South Africa was invited to do a presentation for Presidential staff. She reached out to Nicola Sowah, a speech therapist, and the director of Spelling to Communicate, to see if any of her students wanted to share a message. Nicola uses a unique method, Spelling to Communicate, to help non-speaking autistic individuals learn to communicate by coaching their motor control.
Nicola teaches her non-speaking students to spell and then through spelling by pointing at the letters, the children can communicate. By using this form of communication, Zekwande was able to convey his very important message for the president.
“Previously, Zekwande would have more than likely been labelled as “low functioning” and incapable of learning the mainstream curriculum. Today, we know that this is not true. Many non-speaking autistic people are more than capable of learning, and just need the right support and communication method to show us that they are more than competent.
In fact, we are seeing more and more non-speakers starting to use communication boards and starting to share with us what works and what does not work for them.” – Vicky Lamb
Zekwande isn’t Nicola’s only successful student. Deepak George has been attending speech therapy and has learned the Spelling to Communicate method.
“Another incredible story, is that of Deepak George who is the first South African speller to transition to the keyboard where he will now be able to type up his words, and some of those first words on his keyboard to Nicola Sowah, the director of Spelling to Communicate South Africa were; “I am in awe of myself!” – Vicky Lamb
Both Nicola and Vicky feel that a change needs to happen in South Africa, and Zekwande’s message could be the starting point. The message is clear; we should always assume competence!
Children with autism now have the opportunity to learn so much more and to communicate how they really feel. It is heartwarming to see a small change in South Africa, let’s hope it brings on a bigger change.
And, that is how Zekwande was able to share his beautiful words with the president and the rest of South Africa. If you want to learn more, you can contact Nicola via the Spelling to Communicate Facebook page or contact Autism South Africa here.
**Zekwande’s surname has been omitted but we have requested it from the source and will update the article accordingly.