Experts Call for Collaboration against Autism in Nigeria

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Ayodeji Ake

As part of efforts to address Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) among children in Nigeria, experts have called on all stakeholders and government to develop interventions against it.

Speaking at the 8th Annual Autism Conference held in Lagos recently, and organized by Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB) Plc, themed ‘ Raising a child with autism: the role of family and the community’, the Director, Patrick Speech and Languages Centre, Lagos State, Mrs. Dotun Akande, said children with autism also have potentials which the society must help them develop.

She pleaded with the government to wade-in and creating an atmosphere of relieve to parents who lack financial strength to take proper care of their children living with autism.

She said: “Collaboration is about pulling strength together, sharing what you have. Disability is not a personal characteristic but a gap between personal capacity and environmental demand. Our children will work well when there is a collaborative effort among families, schools, health practitioners, communities, government and private sectors. Lagos government is doing something but not enough,” Akande said.

Speaking on the role of government in autism management, the Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Social Development, Mrs. Joyce Onafowokan, said autism advocacy must be highly commended and supported by everyone who understands the core of GTB’s work in changing the narrative of disability in Nigeria.

Joyce said Governor Akinwunmi Ambode will continue to broaden, strengthen the impact of social development in Lagos state and have taken time to understudy the dynamics of public private partnership in the human development.

“Beyond providing the building and needed equipments, the state will be investing in thorough training for needed personnel and a more sustainable investment in the education sector of the state to ensure a constant pool of trained early childhood intervention and specialists. This will take a significant investment from the state and plans are already in the advancement stages to on this very soon” she said.

The Chief Executive Officer, GTB, Mr. Segun Agbaje, noted that every child living with autism needs support and understanding whether as caregivers, friends, neighbours, teachers or concerned members of the public.
Agbaje said the two days conference will enable stakeholders share ideas on how best to give children living with autism a quality life.

“The theme of this year’s autism conference will guide our conversation over these two days as we share ideas on how to build the expertise, resources and skills required for the effective management of autism. Most importantly, this theme will serve as a constant reminder to all us, that children living with autism are ultimately children.

“Like every other kid, they have big dreams, amazing talents and incredible potential to contribute to our society. They are just as much the leaders of tomorrow, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that they reach their full potential,” Agbaje said.

Charging mothers, Executive Director, The Colour of Autism Foundation, United State of America, Camille Proctor, urged them to be their child best advocate and learn to boast of their specialty in public.