BY CHIOMA OBINNA
MANAGEMENT and massive awareness campaign of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) took the center stage in Lagos last week during an international seminar aimed at educating Nigerian experts on the rising incidences of the disorder in the country.
The event was organised by Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) to address the prevailing lack of societal awareness about these disorders in Nigeria and non existence of training facilities for affected children and also to create awareness about recognition and management of the diseases as well as train Nigerian experts on latest technologies use in managing autistic children and the adult amongst others. Over 100 participants attended the seminar held at the Westown Hotel, Ikeja Lagos.
ASD presents a problem of detection in the child and its management is also demanding on the parents, teachers and society at large. Persons affected by this congenital disability are usually misunderstood and coping with routine social and environmental demands can be challenging. Over 1.2 million people are living with autism in Nigeria.
Executive Director, GTBank Plc, Mrs. Titi Osuntoki said the seminar, tagged, “The Orange Ribbon Initiative… Giving hope and making a Difference”, became necessary following the need to encourage national discourse on autism, reawaken social consciousness about the plight and requirements of children with developmental disabilities.
“GTBank became an advocate for children living with developmental disabilities in 2006, since then, we have partnered with several public and private organisations to create awareness on developmental disabilities through sponsored campaigns, training workshops, informericals and advocacy competitions to encourage advocacy at all levels of government to create inclusive schools for affected children and integration centers for adults and support legislation seeking to protect the rights and provide support for people with developmental disabilities.”
Osuntoki regretted the little attention paid to autistic children and noted that autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects the way person communicates and relates to people around, making it more difficult for both adult and children with autism with everyday social interaction.
Executive Director, Blazing Trails International Centre, Dr. Anna Lamikanra who dismissed the notion that autistic children are imbeciles, advised the public to shun discrimination and
stigmatisation of autistic children. Lamikanra said autism is not specific to any class, gender, race, religion or ethnic group. Dr. Marcus Tillery, Dean, School of Applied Science Thomas Edison State College, Trenton said for years, different mode of technology had been used to improve quality of the life of people with developmental challenges.