By Ebunoluwa Sessou, Franca Odia & Seun Ogunmilua
Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD, has been identified as a complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted behaviors.
However, the effects of ASD and the severity of symptoms are different in each person. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood with many of the most obvious signs presenting around 2-3 years old, but some children with autism develop normally until toddlerhood when they stop acquiring or lose previously gained skills.
According to the World Health Organization, WHO, one out of 160 children lives with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) worldwide.
Further statistics shows that 135 million established cases of autism in the world, with more than one million children and teenagers suffering from the condition in Nigeria. Children with autism tend to have ADHD, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often continues into adulthood.
ADHD includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity, impulsive behavior and psychotropic disorders such as anxiety, mood disorders and depression.
It was on this backdrop that the Guaranty Trust (GTB) Bank organized a conference to address issues surrounding the menace as well as lend a voice to children living with autism.
The event which was an annual autism conference was premised to increase awareness; advocacy and campaigning against the social stigmatization associated with developmental disorder and helping people with autism live a full and productive life.
The conference which featured medical experts and specialists in the medical industry spoke on the theme, “AUTISM “Life Beyond the Disgnosis”, noting that, there is a great range of abilities and characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder; no two children appear or behave the same way, adding that symptoms can range from mild to severe and often change over time. Some of the symptoms include language impairment, intellectual disability, depression, aggression and anxiety among others.
Speaking on the issue, the Group CEO of GTBank , Mr Segun Agbaje disclosed that this year’s programme was the 11th edition adding that, it created an avenue for clarity on the challenges people living with autism encounter in the society.
A member of the children’s hospital Philadelphia, Dr. Anna Lamikanra , explained that, “As many as 85 percent of children with autism have some forms of comorbid psychiatric diagnosis ,35 percent are taking at least one psychotropic treatment , 70 percent have one and 40 percent two or more comorbid diagnosis. People with autism have significantly shorter lifespan not due to autism itself but to accompanying mental disorders and physical health conditions.
Also, a consultant for children living with autism Dr. Grace Bamigboye , urged that showing care and support could help autistic persons develop more in the society.
One of the panelists, Dr. Noimot Balogun, a Public Health Practitioner, opined that, autism is a journey that involves engagement of stakeholders, adding that, training and nurturing a child living with autism is not what the professionals, parents, or teachers should do alone.
For Dr. Praise Bamigboye , “Stakeholders need to ensure special education for children living with autism so as to help in their developing skill”, she concluded.