André celebrates birthday with community

André White, from New Tafelsig, born with an intellectual disability, celebrated his 35th birthday with underprivileged children in his community. Pictured with him is his mom, Charmaine Parker.

A Tafelsig mother hosted a birthday party for her son, who was born with an intellectual disability, and invited underprivileged children from her community.

André White celebrated his 35th birthday three days after the world observed Mental Health Awareness Month in October.

His mother Charmaine Parker said she wanted to give thanks to God, family and friends, who had supported her in raising André , who has the mental capacity of a two-year-old.

They celebrated his birthday with food, activities and party packs at his home in Kilimanjaro Street on Sunday November 3.

According to his medical prognosis, André should not have been walking, talking, eating or able to attend a skills training and job development programme for adults with intellectual disabilities at Training Workshops Unlimited.

“They said he would not survive past the age of a teenager,” said Ms Parker.

She said when he was diagnosed about six months after his birth, it was hard to accept and that she cried — a lot.

Andre spent long periods of time in hospital with meningitis — an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

“Had it not been for my mother, who encouraged me and looked after André , then I don’t know where we would be today.”

André was a tiny baby and his mother asked doctors, whether he was her child.

Ms Parker tried many home remedies, some of which she believes helped her child, and until the age of 14, she carried him because he was unable to walk.

“I went to church with him on my back. Ons het gebid op die olyf olie en vir hom uitgesmeer daarmee. So het die tyd aan gegaan en die Here het hom versterk,” she said.

André attended Erika Special Education and Care Centre, in Rocklands, from age four to 18, after which he spent a year or two at home.

During this time, Ms Parker worked at the centre, where she learned patience and how to manage her son. His carer, his grandmother, died a year before he finished at the centre

Ms Parker said: “It is very hard. Not everybody knows how to work with and have a child like this.

“There are times when I can’t handle him. Hy baklei met ons. Ons kan hom nie partykeer nie verstaan nie,” she said.

Andre’s disability is profound and severe, which means he needs constant supervision.

Over the years he has had a few carers at home but in the past three years, Ms Parker resigned from her work, to take care of him full-time

His attendance at the workshop, relieves his mom for four hours a day, where he is fed, cared for and stimulated to move and interact with carers and other people.

“I feel like I need to give him this party, the last party he had was when he was 21 and it should be celebrated with those less fortunate than him and me,” she said

Ms Parker thanked her siblings, her husband, their children, André ’s sister and their father for all of their love and support.