Autism is a neurological disability characterized by severe impairment in verbal communication, difficulty in forming social relationships, and presence of compulsively repetitive or ritualistic behaviours such as hand flapping, feet stamping, rocking etc. Curiously the phenomenon is about 4 times more common in the male child compared to girls.
Most children on the autism spectrum typically avoid eye contact with others and display apparent lack of interest in people generally including parents, seeming to prefer solitude to team play. They have difficulty understanding social cues such as frowns, smiles or turns taking. Ability for verbal communication, if present at all, is severely impaired in most cases.
Raising a child with autism can be indeed challenging and parents go through emotional roller-coasters including frustrations, fears, guilt and sometimes anger from the social reclusion and emotional unavailability of these children who themselves often resort to aggressive behaviours in trying to communicate their needs or opinion in the absence of verbal communication ability.
Management of autism in an under-developed society like Nigeria can be quite challenging for many parents especially when the issue is compounded by ignorance and inability to access crucial developmental services for their children. As a Not-for-Profit organisation committed to service provision in matters of developmental disabilities, the Children’s Developmental Centre has been striving to make positive difference on the issue of autism (and other disabilities) in Nigeria and has been in existence for the past 20 years.
Advocacy: We continuously create awareness and disseminate crucial information to the Nigerian populace about issues related to autism (and other developmental disabilities). We do this via our official newsletters, awareness lectures, the yearly ‘Finding Normal’ event, ‘Dance-A-Thon’, and road shows among other awareness drives. Governmental agencies, private organisations, and civil society groups partner us as stakeholders in this initiative. Recently we ensured our young adults were duly registered and got their PVCs for the last Nigerian election exercise.
Training: Across Nigeria, we train social workers, teachers (in mainstream and special schools), health practitioners, therapists and parents on innovations and methodologies in management of autism (and other developmental disabilities) in children, adolescents and young adults. Our ‘We-Too-can Grow’ programme is a central point of this endeavour.
Therapy and Services: Early diagnosis and intervention for the child with autism and other related developmental disabilities are crucial for best prognosis and therapeutic outcome. Our programmes under this section include Assessment & Diagnosis, Early Intervention (EI), Sensory Integration Therapy (SIT), physiotherapy, behaviour modification, communication therapy, toilet training, hydrotherapy, etc.For this, we adopt a multi-disciplinary approach involving workers in paediatrics, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, special education, social work and psychology.
Social Integration and Parental Supports: Our young adults on the autism spectrum are further given social integration and developmental platforms via organised outing experience, job experience, team work and creative engagements. Parents also benefit from interactive counselling and support drives geared towards harnessing and maximizing the potential of the child on the autism spectrum.
-Lanre Fashina (Media Support Officer)