By Elizabeth Uwandu
Dr (Mrs) Damilola Olayinka-Aliu, Service Director, Irebamibo Pearl Centre of Hope, IPCH, has warned that rather than attribute Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD in children to spiritual forces or curses, every care, support and understanding should be given to the children and their parents or guardians.
The Senior Clinical Psychologist, at the 2019 Autism Awareness programme themed: The use of assistive technologies and active participation for persons with autism held recently at Agbara Lagos, stated that it was alarming that there still existed lots of stories of stigmatisation, abandonment, disappearance and unproven murder of autistic children.
Her words: “Families with special needs children have been discovered to be prevalent in the society, bedevilled with so much wrong options. Also, most of such parents lack the willingness to follow the steps needed for recovery. Most of the time, one could easily perceive danger of abandonment for such children. Furthermore, most cases have become spiritualised or treated as a curse or a sign of the devil’s mark on such family. To avoid the stigmatisation, most parents choose to dump such children in villages or lock them away in places that worsen their conditions. There are lots of sad stories,” she lamented.
Narrating the journey of how IPCH was formed, the mother of three explained that the birth of her second child, Irebamibo Pearl Olayinka-Aliu diagnosed of Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD, informed the setting up of the non-governmental organisation three years ago. “The IPCH Initiative was born through the pain of finding solution for Irebamibo Pearl Olayinka-Aliu who is currently on the Autistic Spectrum. Ire as she is popularly called, was birthed through normal delivery without any complication whatsoever. As a matter of fact, Ire had the best pregnancy care among her other two siblings. Her antenatal and postnatal care was handled by a recognised private hospital under a relatively conducive atmosphere. In her early months, she was so full of life, laughter and very observant. At nine months, Ire could giggle out Mama, Dadda and a family member who lived with us called Esther pronounced as Ether by Ire. Our thought was that her developmental milestone was going to be rapid. We had no reason to believe anything was wrong with her.
“We, however, became worried when we noticed all the milestones she attained earlier suddenly started disappearing. Ire stopped eye contact, effort to refocus her gaze was met with outburst of loud cries. Also, we noticed she had developed a love for watching Barney cartoon and she could gaze all day at the television. We thought such was unhealthy for her age even though it looked like a perfect substitute for the meltdown.
“Furthermore, Ire’s appetite deteriorated. Feeding her became horrendous. More worrisome was the fact that Ire stopped sleeping at night, and cries out too loud for a baby at any attempt to stop her. Ire literally sleeps every other night out of exhaustion. All these and even more tore us apart inside, her sister felt neglected as she could not understand why we focused so much attention on Ire. We could not comprehend what was going on neither could the doctors. With few consultations and our independent research, we found our beloved daughter had crossed over to Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD. Since then, her condition began to shape our decisions as a family.
“Our search for answers made us to realise that child’s intellectual disability was so prevalent in our society and yet so disregarded. In the quest to find answers, we decided to pursue more knowledge of therapeutic management of children with developmental challenges and special education for such children. We also decided to go into biomedical and homeopathic treatment in reversing Ire’s ASD.