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Call for action to end autism stigma

As the Month of Autism Awareness comes to an end, parents and caregivers have been urged to form and utilise quality support groups in order to remove stigma and increase the possibility of sharing knowledge and best practices for their autistic children.

World Autism Awareness month is normally held April of each year and was adopted by the United Nations in 2007 to shine a bright light on autism as a growing global health crisis.

Activities to increase world knowledge of autism and impart information about the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention is usually encouraged

Felicity Nyambura, Founder and Director of programmes at Autism Society of Kenya (ASK),shared with KNA that there is no known single cause of autism spectrum disorder however early diagnosis helps individuals receive resources that can support the choices and opportunities needed to live a well-rounded full life.

“We are urging parents together with caregivers to consistently utilise support groups as they provide relationship development interventions especially for parents with newly diagnosed children with constructive discussions in order to promote inclusivity and demystify any myths surrounding autism”, said the Founder ASK.

Autism, she explained is a broad spectrum disorder whose characteristics vary as no child or individual is a blueprint of the other.

However there are primary characteristics which include but not limited to poorly developed social skills, difficulty with receptive and expressive communication and restrictive and repetitive behaviors while some children with autism may not develop speech,

With little being known about autism in the public domain, Nyambura   said that Autism Society of Kenya is calling upon the government to develop policies and legislation that will ensure access to care, early intervention inclusive and equitable quality education and quality of life for children and all individuals living with developmental disorders.

“Since inception of the society in 2013 we have lobbied and advocated the government on the plight of persons living with autism and other developmental disorders”, she said

Nyambura noted the need to build their capacity and making relevant information accessible to parents and caregivers for children who are diagnosed with autism.

“We will continue lobbying both county and national government for the development of multidimensional programmes in mainstream national schools and the implementation of policies to ensure compliance of laws and regulations for persons living with developmental disorders in order to give guidance for decision making and streamline processes that facilitate access to well-rounded opportunities “, Nyambura said

Data on autism prevalence in Kenya is very scanty but the Autism Society of Kenya (ASK), the parent-driven organisation believes it could be up to 4 per cent, or one autistic child for every 25 children.

The global rate indicate 1 out of 1000 children has autism whose characteristics can be detected early as the child grows but its diagnosis is usually until a child is 2 years as per WHO report.

By Jackline Kidaha

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