ABUJA – Our Lady of Guadalupe Health Foundation and Autism Centre, an NGO, has called on the Federal Government to enact laws that will protect children with autism.
The Chairman of the centre, Mr Chidi Izuwah, made the call at a seminar organised in Abuja on Wednesday in commemoration of the 2014 World Autism Awareness Day.
Autism spectrum disorder is a general term used for a group of complex disorders of brain development, usually noticed in the first three years of a child’s life.
“Autism is a serious disorder and we have not found the cause of it. So there is a concerted need for legislative action; so that is what that legislation will provide us.
“We already have one that is going in the national assembly. It is important that a public hearing is held to support that because these children are wonderful children.
“They have different abilities and we have a responsibility to help them because if we do not help children with autism reach their potential, we will not be able to achieve MDGs that deal with children especially children with developmental disabilities,“ he said.
The 2014 report by the Centre for Diseases Control rates autism as the third most chronic childhood aliment in the world as it affects one in every 68 children.
Izuwah said that the autism prevalence rate in the country was not known because Nigeria had not recognised autism formally as a distinct disability.
According to him, by creating awareness, we will also see care for autistic children as a national issue and parents will be more inclined to talk about it.
“So you have to follow a structured process for you to arrive at a prevalence rate, because without prevalence rate we cannot plan,“ he said.
He said that autism was not a social problem, hence parents should allow autistic children to socialise with other children.
Dr Dennis Shatima, the Head Pediatrics Department, National Hospital, Abuja, told NAN on the sidelines of the seminar that autism was characterised by poor socialisation and communication and sometimes repetitive behaviour.
He said that although there was no known cause of autism, some risk factors such as genetic components, extreme prematurity and the age of both parents could heighten the risk of bearing autistic children.
The paediatrician said that with speech and behavioural therapy, an autistic child could live an independent life.
Mrs Hadiza Aminu, a mother of a 13-year-old autistic child, advised parents to show love to children with special needs.
“Before now, my son could not say some words, but now he can say the words; he can answer when you call him; he can do so many things he could not do.
“His interaction with other kids has improved greatly; so I’m glad and happy for that.
“And my advice for other parents out there is they should not discriminate against these children.
“Anybody that has this type of children should bring them out; they should not isolate them by keeping them indoors all the time.
“I call on parents all over the world to be happy today because today is world autism day.
“They should celebrate with these children; they should nurture them and show them love. So we thank God for everything,“ she added.
The seminar with the theme `Defeat Autism in Nigeria’, was organised by the centre in collaboration with the Paediatrics and Psychiatric Department of the National Hospital. (NAN)