BLUEAFRIC MEDIA PARTNERS WITH CENTER FOR MEMORIES, CALLS GOVERNMENT, CHURCHES, AND PARENTS TO SHUN DISCRIMINATION OF AUTISTIC CHILDREN
Onyinye Chinedum Agwu
Autism is a social behavioural developmental disorder that occurs in children from the very early age of 8 months to 2 years old.
Visible signs of autism include self-injurious behaviours, and engaging in repetitive head-hitting, biting, lack of focus, and inability to maintain eye contact and scratching, which sets them apart from their peers. Research has yet to define the cause or cure for autism till date. 10 in 100 Nigerians are predisposed to the wrong diagnosis or are never diagnosed.
However, the consequences for those affected are undeniably real and heartbreaking. These children often endure social stigma, and isolation, and are subjected to cruel superstitions, which label them as witches, imbeciles, or even taboos.
What’s even more disheartening is that approximately 31% of children with autism also struggle with intellectual disabilities. Their ability to function in daily life is significantly impeded, making them vulnerable to bullying and mistreatment from both their peers and those ignorant about this complex condition.
Speaking at the seminar organized by Blueafric Media in partnership with the Center for Memories, the Director of the Seizure Support Foundation, Dr. Chiagoroom Oghotuama, revealed in new research that the use of discrete video modeling (DVM) tailored towards the specific needs of these children enhances up to 22% of their IQ.
Dr. Oghotuama, who decried the unwillingness of parents with autistic children to speak up, urged them to mobilize and unite in the fight for the rights and privileges of special needs children.
She also appealed to the government at all levels and relevant stakeholders to take the lead in enhancing the situation of these children.
She further listed funding, individual variability, a limited sample, and time, among others, as challenges to the research.
Also speaking on the occasion, one of the panelists, Dr. Njideka Ifeoma Okoroikpa, noted that although there is no cure for autism, imitation, attention, and engaging in social activities can improve autistic situations.
She also lamented the poor implementation of health policies by the government and called for more inclusiveness for people with the syndrome in reconciling with society. The tremendous financial burden that falls upon the families of autistic children stems from the staggering cost of therapy and healthcare, amounting to about 3 Million Naira annually for a child.
Another panelist, Dr. Munachi Vivian Onyesoh, described autistic persons as neuro-divergent with special abilities, noting that abnormal body gestures, no eye contact, a lack of communication, and repetitive behavior are early symptoms of this disorder.
Earlier in an address, the Program Lead for the Campaign against Autism, Ms. Onyinye Chinedum Agwu, said that the program tagged “Learning on Community Support to Change the Narrative About Autism: Contributions At Home, At Work, In The Arts, and in Policymaking” is to raise awareness about this attendant social development disorder and push the campaign against autism to relevant stakeholders.Highlights of the event were the spoken word presentation by Artvocacy and the syndicated discussion by participants, which were centered on strategies for driving the campaign against autism to the wider society led by the Executive Director of the Centre For Memories–Ncheta Ndigbo, Mr Iheanyi Igboko; while the disc jockey, Elijah Eboh, stage name, ‘DJ Ej’ entertained the audience entertained during the photo and pledge session.
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