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Last modified: 05 May 2021
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CENTRE OF GRACE FOUNDATION: KOUGA BACKS AUTISM CENTRE FOR CHILDREN

06 May 2021
Demonstrating Kouga Municipality’s commitment towards the Centre of Grace Foundation, an Autism Acceptance flag was raised at the municipal office in Da Gama Road on Wednesday, April 28. At the event were (from left) Kouga Executive Mayor, Horatio Hendricks, Kaylene Jappie, Grace Jappie, and Toyer Jappie.

Demonstrating Kouga Municipality’s commitment towards the Centre of Grace Foundation, an Autism Acceptance flag was raised at the municipal office in Da Gama Road on Wednesday, April 28. At the event were (from left) Kouga Executive Mayor, Horatio Hendricks, Kaylene Jappie, Grace Jappie, and Toyer Jappie.

Toyer Jappie, and his wife, Kaylene, founded the Centre of Grace Foundation in 2020 after their daughter, Grace, was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.

Toyer Jappie, and his wife, Kaylene, founded the Centre of Grace Foundation in 2020 after their daughter, Grace, was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.

The Centre of Grace Foundation was established in 2020.

The Centre of Grace Foundation was established in 2020.

THE little dark head girl laughs exuberantly – her dark eyes gleaming with innocent pleasure as her colourful ribbon reflects in the early autumn-morning sun.

Barefoot and with her head tilted to the side, she does what she enjoys the most: running.

Her parents, Kaylene and Toyer Jappie, watch her every movement – the pride, but also sadness and a hint of fear for the future – plays hide and seek in their eyes. A few years back they thought they would never see their youngest child so interactive and happy.

Their daughter Grace’s autism scared them at first – she was diagnosed at the age of three. But today, they are a beacon of hope to many parents with an autistic child.

They took a stand that led to the establishment of the non-profit Centre of Grace Foundation in 2020, which focuses on improving the quality of life for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) – the only one in the region.

Now, less than a year later, Kouga Municipality has joined hands with the Jappies in a bid to bring quality autism services to all Kouga residents – no matter their age or income bracket.

Demonstrating their commitment, an Autism Acceptance flag was raised at the municipal office in Da Gama Road on Wednesday, April 28. The ceremony was followed by an Inclusion in Workplace Programme for all municipal employees, while the Autism Care Project for 2021/ 2022 was explained to interested parties on the same day.

Early Days

“At Grace’s 18-month check-up, we raised our concerns that she was not meeting her developmental milestones and that she had regressed in her speech,” said Kaylene Jappie.

“As the months passed by, she lost all her words, showed no interest in her toys or books and started stimming. She also stopped communicating with us, preferred to play on her own, ran off at dazzling speeds, had meltdowns and experienced hyper-sensory challenges.

“Physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted and disillusioned, we decided to have her assessed by professionals experienced in neurodevelopmental disorders. Grace was diagnosed with ASD.”

Jappie said that they initially felt overwhelmed and uncertain about the future, but soon began empowering themselves with knowledge and information on autism and comorbid conditions.

And so began their journey into the world of autism.

Centre of Grace Foundation

“After receiving Grace’s diagnosis, we were surprised to discover that access to services for autistic individuals are very limited in South Africa, with no services available in Jeffreys Bay,” said Jappie.

“There is also a lack of support for families of autistic children.”

Determined to develop a model that could equip and grow Grace to reach her full potential and have a better life – while remaining central to her growth – the Jappies founded the Centre of Grace Foundation after being trained in the Centre for Autism Research in Africa’s (CARA) naturalistic developmental behavioural model, the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), by a qualified therapist.

“Grace now communicates with us, focuses on tasks, makes eye contact, uses three-to-four-word sentences in context, does not have any meltdowns, and responds to instructions,” said Jappie. “She also says the alphabet, counts, knows colours, responds appropriately to some social cues and is a great fan of jazz piano music.

“Following our experience after Grace’s diagnosis, it is our vision to ensure that autistic children and their families in the Kouga region, have access to world class and life-changing early intervention programmes and education. We, furthermore, want to create a community that understands and accepts the myriad of challenges faced by autistic individuals and their families.”

Programmes and support services include assessment, screening and diagnosis, individualised evidence-based early intervention for children, and home-based and community programmes.

Support programmes for parents and families of autistic children will also be offered.

Kouga Executive Mayor, Horatio Hendricks, who has been touched by the Jappies’ passion, said, “It is an absolute privilege and honour for the municipality to be part of this worthwhile and life-changing programme. “Hosting the flag is not only about raising awareness on autism, but it is also indicating to all residents in Kouga that the municipality is in partnership with a very worthwhile project.

“We encourage all residents and businesses to give them as much support as possible.

“The municipality wishes the Jappies all the luck and all the best on this journey forward.”

More information

For more information, send an email to admin@cogf.org.za or contact 071 240 1292. Alternatively, visit www.cogf.org.za.