By Chioma Obinna
Imagine having a child that was normal at birth, but suddenly after 24 months the child’s skills begin to regress? Imagine having to take care of a child with disability without knowing what to do or where to go? If you can imagine these, then, you will appreciate what a number of Nigerian parents who have children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD, are currently going through.
Children with ASD develop at a different rate and don’t necessarily develop skills in the same order as typically developing children. For example, a child with ASD might start to use a few single words around 12 months of age, but might not have the explosion of language typically seen in other children, perhaps learning only a couple of new words each month. It might take him until he’s three years old to start combining these words together into short phrases.
Experts say children with ASD have difficulties that can affect their learning and development. Children with ASD and their parents carry a huge burden in the absence of a comprehensive in-country platform for timely diagnosis, management and support. The financially enabled travel overseas to seek help, but not so for the less privileged who may not know the cause of their child’s condition and attribute it to other cultural and spiritual factors. But there is hope as experts who gathered at the Guaranty Trust Bank, GTBank, plc 5th edition of its Annual Autism programme says with appropriate management children with the disorder can live a fulfilled life.
In the views of Dr. Anne Lamikara, Blazing Trails International, one unique thing about autism is that it appears about 24 months after birth. “You have a normal child all of a sudden his skills start regressing and you end up having a child with autism.” She said ASD affects 1 in every 150 children around the world and is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with others.
Lamikara said there are a number of medical tests that can be done to determine which child will have autism. “A regular outpatient follow-up and monitoring of children/caregivers on recommended interventions will enhance compliance and make it possible to ascertain the response of target conditions such as seizure, hyperactivity, communication problems among others.
She said the GTBank awareness programme has raised awareness in Nigeria and is creating new ideas on how to manage autism. There is need for people to understand that children with disability can live a meaningful life. ” Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank plc, Mr. Seguin Agbaje, said: “We believe that children, irrespective of developmental disorders can rise to the highest levels in the pursuit of their dreams when given a chance to cultivate their innate skills and maximize their potentials.”
Agbaje stressed that society on the other hand has a role to play in providing an atmosphere for children living with ASD to thrive. “As a bank, we will continue to provide support for parents, teachers and care givers of children living with Autism Spectrum Disorder through our annual Autism programme. The conference, which is free to attend, will feature different classes focusing on diverse areas of the management of Autism Spectrum Disorders. International Professionals such as Nutritionists, Psychologists, Educationists and Medical Practitioners facilitated the various sessions.