Raising a child with a disability does not come without its challenges, but Nomsa Masoka has risen above the adversity and brought other mothers along to form lifelong friendships and support.
Nomsa Masoka’s son was just three years old when he was diagnosed with autism. As a young mother, Masoka had no experience of raising a child with a developmental disability.
Now her son is 16 and Masoka says the experience of raising a child with autism has been one of her proudest experiences. It was through this journey that she discovered her purpose was to work with families and individuals with disabilities.
“My son living with autism is the one who drives me to excel. When I look at him and where I want to see him in years to come, this motivates me to work harder in order to achieve great things for his comfort,” she says.
This journey however did not come without challenges, she says. Little did she know that the woman she would become would cost her “people, relationships, spaces and material things”.
Masoka used her experience of raising her son with autism to establish the support group Mothers Of Children With Autism (MOCWA) in 2015. MOCWA has hosted various events that bring mothers and professionals together and offer networking and educational support to families of children living with autism. This group offers educational workshops, autism awareness walks, family fun day and high teas.
MOCWA also assists families to find suitable school placement for children with autism. MOCWA is now home to 160 mothers and also offers round the clock assistance via WhatsApp group chats.
Masoka is currently in a process of opening an autism village where families can be offered respite care when they don’t have a helper or someone to take care of their children who are living with autism.
During lockdown many families have experienced challenges such as children getting lost, fatal car accidents, unwelcoming neighbours and intolerant communities as well as child abuse. Thus there is a need to provide a safe and supportive environment to some of the struggling families and their children.
“I wish to create more awareness about autism and advocate for the creation of various resources and facilities for individuals living with autism and their families,” she says.
The resources include autism-friendly holiday destinations, restaurants, recreational and residential facilities in order to allow for the inclusion and acceptance of individuals living with autism and their families within society.
A qualified speech therapist, Masoka has worked in both public and private healthcare but was unsatisfied.
“I used to think job satisfaction has to do with the amount of money you earned, accolades or the position you held in a company, but I learned that it’s when your work impacts the lives of others positively that you get the greatest fulfillment.
“It is through my pain that I discovered my purpose and now I use it as a gift to heal, inspire and uplift other women.”