As part of efforts to reduce the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Nigeria, one of Nigeria’s leading financial institutions, Guaranty Trust Bank, has called on Nigerians to better understand the management and treatment of the disorder.
The initiative, according to the bank, is an advocacy programme designed to create awareness and provide support for children with developmental disabilities, most especially the ASD, which it said affects one in every 150 children around the world and is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with others.
Speaking at the Sixth Annual Autism Conference, organised by the bank, tagged ‘Managing Autism: The next generation, considerations and resources’, the Executive Director, Blazing Trails International Centre (BTIC), Dr. Anna Lamikanra, said the forum was to create new ideas on how to manage autism, adding that autism was poorly managed because of inadequate knowledge of how to go about it.
She said: “Our objective here is to help people understand that children with disability can live a meaningful life. This is why we have brought with us nine experts in the field of behaviour modification technology to talk to the people.”
Lamikanra said autism appears in children 24 months after their birth, saying that parents often think they have a normal child until the regression in their behaviour sets in, noting that a medical test can reveal which child would develop autism.
The main features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), she said, are problems with social communication and interaction. “Autism children have unusual behaviours, such as failing to make eye contact, not responding to their name or playing with toys in unusual, repetitive ways. These children may suddenly become withdrawn or aggressive or lose language skills they have already acquired,” she said.
Dr. Marcus Tillery, Princeton Theological Seminary, United States, who was one of the experts at the conference, said many children across the world live with autism. “Some of the challenges are lack of accurate population statistics, lack of proper diagnosis and inadequate manpower to handle the disorder,” he said.
On teaching of social change, Tillery said there was dearth of speech therapists, adding that attitude of people in the society regarding funding of autism treatment was poor.
Tillery, Provost, Paine College in the U.S., said other problems are non-implementation of legislation and poor teaching practice.
Recognising the challenge posed by autism in the educational development of children, GTBank has over the years partnered with various stakeholders and practitioners, including the University of Lagos – College of Medicine, Blazing Trails International, Ministries of Health and Women Affairs to increase awareness about autism in Nigeria.