…Parents to seek appropriate care for their children
By Chioma Obinna
Health experts last week in Lagos blamed the growing number of autism cases in Nigeria and other African countries in the last 10 years on increased awareness.
The experts who spoke at the GTCO Plc 12th Annual Autism conference held in Lagos with the theme: “Creating a Community of Autism Advocates also advised parents to seek professional advice in case of suspected autism in their children.
Speaking, a Chief Consultant Psychiatrist and Head of the Child and Adolescent Unit of Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, Dr Muideen Bakare, while explaining a typical trend in the Nigerian school and hospital, stated: “While there’s no national figure, the average is about 1:2 percent of the children in school but in clinical setting, the prevalence may be higher than that because parents bring children with problem in the hospital.”
Explaining why there are more cases now, Bakare blamed it on increasing awareness and cultural factors.
“There is a notion that black Africans don’t suffer autism because it’s rarely found among Africans due to our communal living.
“But these days, we have more nuclear family and children have less interactions and little exposure to peer relationship with extended family members because of nuclear setting.
“You need peer to peer interaction for mindset development. Play is an essential part of the development of any child.”
Signs to watch out for
Bakare advised that if there’s a development delay, speech delay or a child cannot look straight to you in the eyes, those are the signs to consider seeing a professional.
He also said if the child is always wishing to be on his/her own, being consumed in his own world, and concentration maybe lacking, it is a sign.
Also, a Consultant Emergency Psychiatrist with the Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro Abeokuta, Dr Oladipo Sowunmi, while advising parents said: “You need the right person to make the right diagnosis for you or else, everything that happens in the life of a child will be termed autism like intellectual disorders.
“In general, neuro developmental disorder in children is like a salad mixed in different ingredients, you need somebody to sort the ingredients for you and let you to know the main problems.”
Speaking on when to begin to suspect a case of autism, Sowunmi said: “It might appear earlier or later in life but usually we evaluate children during the period that their education had started, where you expect more social interactions.
“In our community, most of the children were picked around the age of six. But if you are within the more educated setting where there’s a pressure of starting the preschool, there’s also a likely hood that you pick it earlier. We are expecting for all of us to do more in showing practical support for this special group of persons by adopting a mindset of inclusion.”