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Autism: Experts say Disability Law will improve access to treatment

By  CHIOMA OBINNA

A team of experts from  Nigeria and the USA, as well as parents of Autistic children have called for enactment of a law that will provide services for disabled children in the country.  The team which included psychiatrists, psychologists, behaviour analysts, speech pathologist, physical therapists, occupational therapists, paediatricians and others, argued that having such a law in place will go a long way in reducing the challenges of caring for autistic children as well as access to treatment.

Psychiatrist and Mental Health advocate, Psychiatric hospital, Yaba, Dr. Maymunah Kadiri said the way forward was to have the Disability Act passed and put in place with other necessities such as “having child friendly hospitals, subsidised or free healthcare for children with special needs, encouraging business friendly environment for individuals with special needs and finally, more and more advocacy.”

Kadri said “1 in 145 children are autistic, because  screening was among children with intellectual disabilities. In 2011, prevalence of autism spectrum disorders was 0.8 percent in a south eastern hospital and this means 1 in 100.

Corroborating her views, Shirley Marks, a Board certified psychiatrist also from the US said: “One of the challenges with autism is that the social interactions are delayed and people with autism need to be assisted. “In America, the law is there to provide services for the disabled and that helps but you don’t have that here in Nigeria nevertheless, advocacy can help promote that cause.”

Executive Director, Blazing Trails International Centre, a centre for children with special needs in Texas, United States, Dr. Anna Lamikanra, noted that a major factor militating against early treatment and management of the condition was stigmatisation and discrimination against children and adults with autism.

Psychologist, Dr. Lawrence Sutton noted that autism in children could be diagnosed as early as 18-24 months. There is no blood test to detect that a child or adult has autism, it is majorly the behaviour that is evaluated.


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