The Living Experience

Jazel Peterzell

Ms Jazel Peterzell

Jazel Peterzell is the mother of a daughter who has autism and one of the Directors of Autism Action SA, an organization started by her and her husband, Paul, as an outreach to meet and help other families who have a child with autism.

Their daughter, Cheyenne, was diagnosed at around age 3.5 years old. Cheyenne is 9 years old and making tremendous progress in all areas of her life. There are still many challenges that they face with their child on their journey living with autism. They have learned to embrace both the challenges as well as the lessons that raising a child with autism presents with the knowledge and belief that their daughter can and will make progress.

It is the mission and the vision of Autism Action SA to bring success to all families who have a child or children with autism through education, support and training, primarily in the lesser affluent communities in Cape Town and throughout South Africa where the need is greatest and a tremendous shortage of quality resources exists.

The organization has Dr. Danielle Liso PHD, BCBA from Johns Hopkins University in the USA as their Clinical Advisor.

Autism Action invites you to join them to strive to make every family and every child’s life with autism a success in South Africa. Please visit their website at

Ms. Di Maitland

Di Maitland was born in New Zealand in 1964 and is the eldest of four girls. She left her country of birth in her early twenties, traveling first to Sydney, Australia where she spent a year. Di then moved to London, England.

During her six years in London she worked as a Special Needs Assistant in a private mainstream school, and studied to qualify as a Montessori Teacher.

Di met her future husband Allan in London and when Allan was due to return to South Africa she was very easily persuaded to make the move with him! It was a decision that she has never regretted. Before starting their family Di worked as a Grade One Teacher at Altholton Primary School in Durban. Thomas came along in 1996 and life was easy, however, a few years later Nick was born and they entered the world of special needs.

Allan and Di founded Kids First (a very small school for children with autism) and opened their doors in January 2006. This has really contributed to their peace of mind. Di is an active member of the autism community. She gave a presentation ‘Relationship Development Intervention, A Mother’s Experience’ at the February 2010 Autism South Africa, Durban workshop. An edited version of the presentation appeared in PEP Talk, a magazine produced by the Association for Children with Disability, based in Tasmania. The article has also being submitted to Autism South Africa for their Aut Talk magazine. Di is a member of the advisory committee for the proposed Masters in ASD at UKZN. She also organizes an informal mother’s support group four times a year. 

Ms Thembi Mkhize

She is Thembi Mkhize - she has 7 children of which a 6 year old son Boy Shozi is in the Asenze Cohort but also is the caregiver for an 8 year old (in the picture) Thembokwakhe (She is his grandmother). The older male in the photos is another disabled family member. This family was chosen for you by our Ethnographer as she felt Thembi was able to share her experiences and it is a family that has many members affected by disability as well as a lack of intervention.


Our ethnographer Sindi Mnguni, is liaison person for this family and has informed Thembi about our request for her to take part in the Living Experiences panel and she has consented  to attend and take part in the discussions on 16 November.

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