BY CHIOMA OBINNA
The Federal Government has been enjoined to show commitment towards the plight of Nigerians living with autism by funding epidemiology research on the condition which has been found to be common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and paediatric AIDS combined.
Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that is marked by the presence of impaired social interaction and communication in addition to restricted repertoires of activities and interests. Unfortunately, despite the many challenges posed by the condition, the awareness is still very poor in Nigeria. As a result many sufferers and their families are left to bear their cross alone.
Speaking at the International Autism Policy and Practices Conference comes up in Accra Ghana, National Coordinator, Autism Associates &CADD, Mr.Okey-Martins Nwokolo urged the Federal Government to fund research with a view to understanding the disorder as well as its management. He called for the inclusion of autism in routine health checks as part of actionable commitment to management and treatment of the disorder.
“It is so bad today that no university in Nigeria is offering speech therapy to help these people. No single school for people with autism in Nigeria and many of these people end up sitting down at home because there is no school or any form of early intervention for them. If early intervention is given to these children, many of them would have contributed to nation building. Intervention should be made as early as age five or six but in Nigeria some of the cases are reported at age 11.
“We appeal to the Federal Government to set up a committee to study autism in this environment and make possible recommendations”.
Mrs Oritoke Aluko- Olokun, mother of a 31- year-old Seun with autism since age one he was struck by a viral infection, said it has not been easy bearing the burden. “Since he was diagnosed to have autism, life has been easy. You will have to deal with sleepless night, treatment and taking care of him because he cannot be left alone. But the problem now is when I am no more who will take care of him. This is why the government should intervene to help these people.”
Mrs Faith Balogun mother of six- year- old, Sharon, decried the discrimination of these children and their classification as imbeciles.