Our Sunshine Superstar of the week is a little girl who didn’t know how to play.

In October last year, 3-year old Reagile Nakedi began attending the Sunshine Eldorado Park centre. It was a difficult time for the class, the teacher, and the little girl. Reagile has severe developmental delays and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). She was very destructive in class and displayed no interest in activities or toys. A wonderful transformation took place when her teacher made use of the activities in the Sunshine START Stimulation programme. Soon the frustrated little girl was able to sit and focus on playing with a toy – a giant leap for a child who was totally unable to concentrate.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. In children with ASD, the symptoms are present before three years of age, although a diagnosis can sometimes be made after the age of three. There’s no “cure” for ASD, but speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, educational support, plus a number of other interventions are available to help children and parents.

These children have problems using non-verbal behaviours to interact with others – for example, they have difficulty with eye contact, facial expressions, body language and gestures. They may give no or brief eye contact and ignore familiar or unfamiliar people. Some children with ASD like to stick to the same routine and little changes may trigger tantrums.

Children with ASD may also lack awareness of and interest in other children. They’ll often either gravitate to older or younger children, rather than interacting with children of the same age. They tend to play alone. They can find it hard to understand other people’s emotions and feelings, and have difficulty starting conversations or taking part in them properly.

Given that she has ASD, we don’t know what Reagile’s future holds, but we do know that it is far brighter than it was a few months ago. To see her happily playing with play dough and a roller for longer than 10 minutes is a testament to the patient and persistent care of her teacher. Reagile loves playing with music toys – perhaps because her heart is singing now that she has discovered a world full of wonders.

Our incredible staff and children continue to inspire us every day. We welcome your calls and queries – let us help your child become a Sunshine Superstar.

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autistic-spectrum-disorder/Pages/Introduction.aspx