A Canada-based Paediatric Neurologist, Dr Martin Adeyemi, has called for increased facilities and trained professionals to attend to autistic children in the country.
Adeyemi gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Monday, in commemoration of the 2022 World Autism Day, which is annually marked on April 2 around the globe to raise awareness about the condition.
The 2022 edition which is themed: “Inclusion in the Workplace” the expert said the call became necessary so as to focus on individuals who have personally undergone the difficulties and witnessed new probabilities in the workplace.
Adeyemi, therefore, stressed the need for increase in number of facilities to take care of autistic people and advised Nigerians to treat such people as equal to everyone.
He urged Nigerians to accommodate, appreciate, celebrate and allow autistic people to be themselves.
The neurologist said that the World Autism Awareness Day said “as a growing global health issue, autism is only gaining more understanding.
“There is no better way to observe this day than by choosing to become more aware of the characteristics of people with this condition and how we all should do more to promote understanding, kindness and inclusion for people living with autism.’’
He said that many parents also struggled to accept their child’s condition, adding that many were “ashamed’’ of the condition, an attitude which usually result in parents hiding children from the public.
Adeyemi said that many of these problems were deeply rooted in religious and cultural beliefs and decried a situation where the behaviours of children with autism were seen
as demonic, forcing their parents to desperately seek help from traditional healers and spiritualists.
The physician, who said that many children battling the condition from poor families do not attend schools, added that the availability and accessibility of screening and diagnostic tools would help children with such health condition.
He said “providing facilities and trained professionals to support families and their children with autism spectrum conditions should be on Federal Government’s priority list.
“Research on ASD in Nigeria, and in Africa in general, is sparse. There was a time when many assumed that autism was only found in developed countries.’’
According to Adeyemi, mental health professionals have limited way of understanding neurodiversity and autism is not a disability, it is a different ability. Every child should have the opportunity to receive quality education.
“As a nation, let us reaffirm our commitment to an inclusive, equitable, and sustainable nation for persons with autism,” he added.
Autism, also called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a broad term used to describe a group of neuro-developmental conditions, characterised by difficulty in social interaction and communication, restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behaviour.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), autism is a lifelong neurological condition that affects how people interact with the world around them.
Most commonly, autism can influence how people communicate, form relationships and behave; yet each person’s experience will vary a lot.
While some autistic people may only experience mild signs, others will have severe symptoms that can affect their daily activities because symptoms differ.
Autistic people may find it hard to communicate and interact with others, find it hard to understand how other people think or feel, find things like bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable.
Autism was identified in the 1940s but was not widely recognised until the 1970s, meaning some older autistic adults were never diagnosed.
This is also why we still do not know much about the autism experience in later life.
A child or young adult is likely to avoid eye contact, take things literally, or become very upset in certain situations, but autism in older adults does not always work this way; it can also be a very different experience for men and women.
According to WHO, autism is three times more likely to affect boys/men than girls/women.
It predicted that the number of adults over 65 years old with ASD will reach 155,000 by 2035.