By Caleb Ayansina
ABUJA – Emotion ran high recently when it was revealed how potentials embedded in children affected by autism were wasting and left untapped, due to their neglect by the society. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behaviour.
Several accounts made it clear that those children suffering from autism ignorantly referred to as ‘imbecile’ by some people are fully loaded with God’s given talents, if they could be catered for and brought up like other children. Consequently, the Comprehensive Autism and related Disabilities Education and Training (C.A.D.E.T.) Academy in conjunction with the non-profit Dewdrops Community Centre for Special Needs Abuja, organized an Autism Awareness Dinner/Seminar to mark World Autism Month of April.
Speaking at the occasion, the Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo said that no child should be left behind in term of quality education, regardless of their status. Nebo, who one of his grand-children is suffering from autism, noted that although it was a huge challenge to take care of them, “every individual with autism is unique in their own way”. He said it was so unfortunate that there was little or no education about children with ASD, as some times the society had misconception about them.
The minister noted that some people see them as witch or children affected by dark or occult power and in the process, “some of them were tortured, they received the beating of their life. The most important thing we need to do is to see the opportunity in every situation we encounter.” Narrating his experience, one of the parents at the seminar, Barr. Moses Ntuen in an interview with newsmen confessed that it was not an easy task to take care of an autistic child.
His word; “I have a daughter who is autistic (that is ASD). We have been through a lot, because basically in Nigeria, there is a very low awareness to it. “The journey is quite slow, you will not see a success coming cascading in a quantum that you normally expect, if you are investing your emotion, your resources, times in training a child, you know what you expect basically from a normal child, for them there is nothing abnormal about them except they are special need children.
“Honestly, it is quite tasking. Emotionally, to take care of these children is quite tasking, an autistic child will need to be watched in every single minute except he or she goes to bed. “The child could pick any thing and put it the mouth, the child could eat poison, and also the child might have tendency of not feeling thing and along the line endanger his or herself.
“So, given the kind of world we are living, a world you need to work very hard to provide for your family to survive, and at the same time give a parental care to the same child, it takes a lot. “About my daughter, the success is quite slow, but she could do some certain things by herself now. But what come along with them is that they are very organised, and when they pick on something to do, they are focus.
“It is good to be enlightened, we never thought in that direction that the child was stubborn or it is a spiritual matter. But you know! You don’t live in isolation of your society and the practices within your community. A lot of other persons could prescribe what could possibly be the reasons for this thing, but we never think in that direction.” In her remarks, the Chief Executive Officer of CADET Academy, Mr. Lola Aneke explained that “the dinner served as a platform to create awareness about Autism, educate, inspire and encourage families, teachers and caregivers who are dealing with young students living with Autism.”
She added that the seminar would also be used to raise funds to build a centre; The Dewdrops Community Centre for Special Needs and Vulnerable Women, registered as their non-profit arm in Abuja. According to her, the centre would provide scholarship/sponsorship of special needs students, special education capacity building for teachers as well as procurement and installation of special education needs resources, assessment materials and teaching aids.
Mrs Aneke decried a situation where children with special needs are being denied education because of their disability status, calling on government at all levels to ensure that schools are opened to all children. She maintained that they were ready to provide training on special education to those teachers that would be taking care of the children with special needs.