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Autism Awareness: NGO, CG advocate early detection, treatment

For reasons of creating autism awareness among parents, the WOW Divas, a non-governmental organisation, in partnership with the century Group has organised a seminar on autism to help parents recognise early symptoms and seek help on time.
The concern has been that African societies, Nigeria inclusive, autism seems not so easily recognized even among the educated parents, let alone among those who are not literate. This makes help for children with the condition come in quite late due to late detection.

From various speakers who made people see the world through the eyes of a child with autism, came the hurting reality how autism as a health condition affects the social, behavioral and emotional development of an individual.

Society particularly, makes nurturing a child with autism very difficult since people are not well informed about the condition. Families resort to isolating such children, abandoning them, or even killing them in some cases.

Marked by serious difficulties in communicating and interacting with other people, it is believed to be a non -communicable neurological syndrome. While there is also no cure for the condition, it is believed that through early detection, there can be a recovery.

This is yet, a subject of serious debate among doctors and caregivers, as cases are varying depending on the individual’s level on the autism spectrum.

When Fade, a single mother, noticed that her son displayed delayed language development, her grandmother pacified her saying ‘He’s a boy, boys don’t start talking early”. Not until after 18 months was it clear that something was wrong and she took him for some tests. He was confirmed autistic. The child’s school could not help also because they probably did not understand that the child had special needs.
It is sad to note that even educated people are ignorant of the condition most times.  Dr Dotun Akande gave instances common in rural areas where people believe that such ‘abnormal’ children are products of spiritual tradeoffs with dark forces. Some parents also confessed that out of frustration, they beat their special children very ruthlessly on several past occasions.
 Even many hospitals and health providers have also failed as they lack the requisite skill to treat and aid those on the autism spectrum and equip their families. In some cases where the autistic children are sensitive to sound and so cope physically by covering their ears and rocking back and forth, the doctors have prescribed eardrops, or worse, hearing aid which only magnify the sounds and give the child the grinding machine sensations. Their world is very different no matter how they try; little wonder it’s called ‘oyinbo disease’ because of the rarity and expense of proper treatment.
It is relieving to know that people on the autism spectrum are getting more appreciation and understanding through the work of concerned people such as the Wow Divas and the Century group, which is committed to enabling people.
Dr Adeola Oduyemi like her counterpart Dr Aluko, pleaded a case for early intervention/treatment, preparation (educating expectant mothers, caregivers and health centers for long term management of the condition) and understanding from society.
Dr Akande  who runs a school for people on the autism spectrum was optimistic about the prospects as she encourages people to look at the children’s abilities beyond their weaknesses.  She believes that despite the children’s restricted social interest, early detection opens doors for them in  skill acquisition and life skills education.
The event celebrated the courage of those battling autism and made a call for people to extend empathy and understanding to those affected. The WOW Divas were appreciative of Century Group support for the event and in the production of the second edition of the Nigerian autism directory, listing services currently available and sharing valuable information on what autism is and various therapies that help combat
Support is still being solicited from government and private sector to aid early diagnosis and intervention to provide specialists and facilities to help the children recover and maximize their full potentials.
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