Follow us on:

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn YouTube


New autism centre opens at N.E. Point   By Vidya Gappy   |04 June 2022

New autism centre  opens at N.E. Point     By Vidya Gappy   

A new autism centre was inaugurated yesterday by First Lady Linda Ramkalawan at North East Point. The centre will be managed by the non-governmental organisation ‘Autism Seychelles’ which currently employs two full-time staff and one part-timer.

Among guests present at the official opening ceremony were the Minister for Youth, Sports and Family, Marie-Celine Zialor; in the presence of the former vice-President Vincent Meriton, Minister for Education Dr Justin Valentin, Minister of Local Government and Community Affairs Rose-Marie Hoareau, principal secretaries Clive Roucou and Linda William Melanie, Members of the National Assembly – Regina Esparon and Naddy Zialor ‒, the donors, parents and members of the association Autism Seychelles.

The chairperson of Autism Seychelles, Marie-Annette Ernesta, noted that today is an important day for many families who has a member living with autism. “For so many years we have been trying to get a place to bring our family members to get specialised help and today we can say this is a stepping stone towards this endeavour. It gives hope to all of us parents who have an autistic child. With the support we are receiving from the government and the private sector, we have made a step ahead. We did not have any place to go and we acknowledge the big push received from the former Vice-President Vincent Meriton.”

She also emphasised on the fact that this centre is not a school. “Today I make an appeal to the community, please do not judge our children. They are not indisciplined! Each person diagnosed with autism is different and we cannot put them in the same boat. The children will have to come in small groups to the centre.”

This centre will mainly be for people needing support/counselling and they already have Gina Charlette who is a special needs specialist and a speech therapist. The association is also in contact with a school in South Africa where they will come to train them and develop a programme. If parents need help, they can contact the association and refer them to Dr Erna Athanasius and her team to help in diagnosing children.

Minister Zialor added that this centre is a perfect example how the community can come together with the help of the government and the private sector for a good cause. “Since I took the portfolio of this ministry, together with Minister Valentin, Minister Peggy Vidot and Minister Rose-Marie Hoareau, we are working on how to help the children with special needs.  We are working towards inclusivity and the children with autism should be included in the community. We will have to train ourselves to be an inclusive society and learn new ways of communication for families and work places in order to help in the accommodation of our special needs people.”

On that day, the vice-chair of Autism Seychelles, Lyn Lavigne spoke about the Autism Seychelles journey so far. “It started with Pearl Seychelles in 2012 when the word 'autism was not at all a familiar word in Seychelles.The formation of the first autism support group started in 2010, with the help of the then Seychelles Children's Foundation. The group then progressed to becoming an officially registered association in December 2012. It was at this point that we, as an association, embarked on this journey to bring awareness and sensitise the public to this complex neurological disorder. The association at this point consisted of only a few dynamic parents who work tirelessly to make our concerns and fears known.”

Ms Lavigne recalled that the association began by producing brochures and posters that were distributed among various clinics and schools on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. They hosted a workshop with teachers, and they also began a very interactive relationship with the media whereby every so often they had certain features or interviews with parents and their children, talking about their experiences living with autism.

In 2018, the association acquired this very building, which was made possible by former vice-president Vincent Meriton. “Our next challenge was having to repair the building, which was in dire need, but we did not despair. We needed to bring as many people together to make this happen”, shared Ms Lavigne.

They had the contributions from the Rotary Club Coco de Mer, Special Children’s Fund, MCB, Cable and Wireless, H Savy Insurance, Melvin Jones Foundations Lions Club and Shreeji Construction Company. They also had Joel Melanie, who was so determined to go on a mission for the centre that he created a charity run to raise funds.

“After all the work was done with the renovations and setup, in November 2019 we were able to employ Gina Charlette as head of special needs with the help of the Ministry of Education. We are now at this next stage, as we officially open the Autism Support Centre, to resume working with STAR ACADEMY and conducting other activities that we put on hold during the pandemic, such as recruiting staff locally,” concluded Ms Lavigne.

All sponsors received a gift from Autism Seychelles and one of the autistic youth presented a bouquet of flowers to the First Lady followed by the cutting of the ribbon and the touring of the facility.

The accompanying photos show some highlights of the official opening of the Autism centre yesterday.


Vidya Gappy



Poem written by Fredrick Gappy


Here I am, locked inside my own world.

You think I don’t listen, but I hear and understand everything.

Sometimes I get frustrated because you think I am normal but I’m not.

It’s not my fault, it’s the way I am.

I wish I could say and do what everyone want to, but I can’t.

I am Autistic.

For those that don’t know me. They think I am out of control.

If only they can be me for one day.

There are lots of other feelings the same everywhere in the world.

A battle where we are winning.

For those who look after me, take one step at a time.

My friends are trying hard to understand me.

Will they ever succeed?

Will my parents ever get the key to unlock the missing puzzles.

Let us just hope?

Yes I am Autistic. Yes I am complicated.

Yes I am a pearl.

Thank you.






More news