Post-schooling opportunities for autistic youngsters remain severely limited. A 20-year-old woman with a musical gift, Dembe Ndou, is one of many confronted by this predicament.
Her schooling at a specialised facility in Daveyton on the East Rand, comes to an end when she turns 21.
Autism is a brain disorder which impairs behaviour and communication.
Her name means miracle and she has an ear for music, a gift transcending her social and developmental limitations. Dembe’s mother, Rendani Ndou says she was diagnosed with autism as a baby.
“She started to walk at the age of one year four months. Everything was slow. She started to talk at age four, but through singing. Even now, we can’t communicate like you and me; she talks through singing. The children with autism, you have to encourage them to do something. Unless you encourage them, they won’t do anything.”
Dembe’s father, Mandla Ndou, says that he got her a keyboard.
“The doctor suggested we must buy her a ball so she can use her hands. For me, I decided to get a keyboard that will require all her fingers.”
For the self-taught maestro, replicating beats comes naturally. Her father says that when she sings, you cannot tell that she has a disability.
“I didn’t even know it was a purpose from God; that is how this miracle thing was revealed, that is how she played in two months and she was playing following what was on TV. One day, I was surprised my wife saying ‘your daughter can play what is on TV.’ When she sings, you can’t say there is any disability on her; she becomes normal. She can do more than me and I who don’t have a disability.”
Dembe’s parents have one wish, to hone her special talent. Her father says that she has an anointing.
“We call ourselves normal; they can do more than us. I cannot heal people; she can heal people through singing. The anointing is there, she can change the community.”
There’s a call for opportunities beyond schooling, a frustration shared by countless families.
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