Advice Column, Health, Lifestyle

Introducing The Down Syndrome Association

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The Down Syndrome Association Western Cape (further referred to as DSAWC) was founded by Mike and Gloria Botha in 1976, after their daughter Cheré was born with Down Syndrome (DS).

Down syndrome, the most frequent of all chromosomal abnormalities arising at the time of conception and it is not a disease.  This purely random occurrence happens in 1 in 850 births in South Africa – traversing all nationalities and backgrounds.  Down syndrome is the major cause of delayed intellectual and physical development

As a non-profit organisation DSAWC offers a variety of services and support to people with Down syndrome and similar intellectual disabilities as well as their families.  Our services and programs are aimed at improving the quality of life for people with DS, helping them find their purpose and taking their rightful place in society. We encourage people with DS to develop to their full potential, using their skills and abilities to contribute to their communities, prompting the idea that they have the right to live with independence, dignity, respect and security as valued adults and full citizens in our society.

DSAWC endeavours to empower families through dissemination of information, training courses and establishing of support groups. We encourage a more inclusive environment in the education and employment arenas and our ongoing mission is to see that the rights of disabled adults and children are recognised and honoured in all spheres of life.

We have various ongoing services such as counselling, social services, assistance with grant applications, social and fundraising events, awareness events and parent evenings etc.  Apart from these ongoing activities we are running the following programs with a total of 482 beneficiaries in the Western Cape:

  • Outreach Project
  • Leisure Libraries
  • Umthi Special Needs Class
  • Early Intervention
  • Masandé workshop

Outreach Project: 

The Outreach Project is a service we render to communities in the respective community. This project serves previously disadvantaged communities and areas that have difficulty accessing our services and programs. Meetings are held regularly at set venues, some areas have weekly meetings, others monthly.   We are currently running 7 outreaches serving 32 areas.

The Outreach brings our early intervention program to those who cannot come to us, as well as create a platform for parents to get support from and give support to each other. We want to uplift families through stimulation, support and training. We also have a toy library to supply toys to these families to enable them to follow the intervention program and to help their child develop through play.

Playing with age appropriate toys is essential for development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional wellbeing of children. Play also offers opportunities for parents and teachers to engage with their child.

Leisure Library 

Our Leisure Library looks at the continuous stimulation in terms of the need for socialisation / emotional development and interaction between adults with Intellectual disabilities. We have 2 projects running under the banner of our Leisure Libraries.

The Social Club is mainly for the development of social skills as interactions with other adults are very important. Once a month a dance is organised, and attended by our young adults. This is a good opportunity for the parents of these adults to get together to share their struggles and their joys – being able to support one another

In the Arts Class we create beautiful shopping bags. The young people paint on cloth; this is then stitched onto shopping bags and sold at a monthly market and other events. All proceeds go back into the buy in of new materials.

Umthi Special Needs Class

Umthi is our special Needs Class done in collaboration with Sivuyile Children’s Home. All children have a right to develop to their full potential and the Umthi Special Needs Class looks at the child as an individual with individual needs and possibilities. We cater for children with severe and multiple disabilities that doesn’t fit the criteria in other special needs schools or groups.  We firmly believe that every child has an ability in their disability.

Early Intervention Programme

Our Early Intervention programme provides emotional support and empowers parents with children with Down syndrome.  We inform and equip parents to help their children to exceed and achieve the almost impossible with the right kind of help, support and education.  This programme provides adequate provision of professional support services to those with special needs.

Masandé Workshop

The Masandé workshop is a pilot project and it will afford 5 young adults with DS the chance to continue to develop new skills, as well as maintain skills already learned. If any of the young adults can be integrated into a mainstream job and workplace that would be the ultimate goal.

For more information please contact our offices at 021 919 8533 or send an email to our Office Manager, Tineke Ganz-Malan, on

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