We commemorate World Autism Awareness Day this year by talking to Edwina Stevens, a Bachelor of Education student, who is a teacher’s assistant at a special needs school.

How did your love for teaching come about?

My love for teaching started a few years ago when I started working with the children at my church. My husband and I taught the little ones and that is how I decided to study teaching. The love I have for children is a bonus. I decided to take my future into my own hands and started studying teaching in 2020.

What is it like working with children who have disabilities?

Wow, working with children with disabilities can be very challenging some days and other days are smooth sailing.

Could you briefly explain what Autism is?

Autism Spectrum Disorder impacts the nervous system. It is a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. The range of severity of symptoms can vary widely, and these include communication challenges and repetitive behaviour.

Do you think it’s important to have a special day, such as World Autism Awareness Day? Why?

Yes, I definitely think so. There are so many people out there that don’t know what autism is and how to deal with, or how to handle, autistic children. There are also very few resources and schools to accommodate autistic children, which is very sad; some children are on waiting lists for years.

What are the challenges that you encounter?

Every day is obviously different. Sometimes it’s hard to understand their needs and because they cannot express themselves they would fight with you and even gives you bruises; they would scream, they would spit at you, or just cry nonstop.

What are the joys that you experience?

Awww … there are many joys as well, like they would come and give you random hugs and kisses or the happiness you see in their eyes when they see you in the morning makes you feel that you are doing something right.

What advice do you have to teachers going into the special needs space?

You must really have a passion to work with autistic children as they need a lot of patience and love.

If you enjoyed getting to know Edwina and her role as an educator then you might like to read about Amanda Ngema here.

Tell us: Have you ever heard of autism before?