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County to hire more Occupational Therapists as it marks World Autism Fete

Kisumu County Government hosted with its partners the second edition of World Autism Day by promising to hire more occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and neurologists to address several challenges affecting parents and caregivers of children with the condition.

Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o said that the increased number of therapists will adequately handle autism cases which are neuro-developmental conditions and not a disease.

“The Kisumu County Persons with Disability Act recognises children with autism and is in the process of ensuring the full implementation of UN Convention Rights to Persons with Disability. That’s why the county is partnering with non-state actors to improve the sector,” Prof Nyong’o said.

Through his Chief Advisor on Persons Living with Disability Caroline Agwanda, Prof Nyong’o assured that moving forward they will include in their annual calendar and budget for World Autism Day.

“We will call upon the review of the policy document and will commit to creating awareness to the villages as a team,’’ he observed through remarks by Beatrice Odongo CECM for Youth, Gender, and Sports.

The CECM for Public Service Judith Oluoch said that there is a noble plan to map, locate and know the number of non-state actors and align them with current emergent issues in the policy document.

As a cost-cutting measure, parents and caregivers were advised to undertake Applied Behaviour Analysis Therapy (ABAT) at home on their children with autism.

This can be done by observing and knowing which type of disabling ability of the learners have through functional assessment by the ears office and an expert who knows how to apply ABAT.

The function was held at Joyland Special Primary School run and managed by the Salvation Army that has 250 students; it also teaches autistic children.

The hallmark of the day’s event was the Awareness Creation processional walk from the Kisumu County Teaching and Referral Hospital to the event’s venue. The various participants who graced the occasion also planted trees and were assisted by the National Youth Service.

Farida Sat, the Director of Winam Child Without Limits stressed on the need for early testing, detection, and screening of children with autism. She also encouraged parents to exercise patience and change their attitude while dealing with their children.

She noted that in the last three decades, autism existed among 1 out of 100, 000, while two decades ago it was 1 in 500, but now more worryingly, it’s found in 1 out of 40 children.

“This means that in every class of 40-50 children, there is one child who has autism. In the next, decade, we are likely to have two or more children with autism,’’ explained Dr Josephine Omondi, a former Child and Relationship Psychiatrist at Kenyatta Teaching and Referral Hospital.

Omondi said that National Institute and Training Authority has now started to admit children with autism who are highly functioning and average to learn some artisan skills.

TINADA Director Roy Douglas lauded the continued concerted efforts between the stakeholders, and the need to identify indicators of the achievements made so far.

On behalf of the autistic children’s parents and caregivers, Priskilla Ondiek requested the county government to waive medication costs to favourable fees and urged them to employ more therapists to help them from the myriad of challenges they face while living with them.

“We are kindly requesting that both tiers of government create more awareness on autism to gain acceptance, make the health facilities within our reach and we have a more affordable therapist as most of them are very expensive,” Ondiek said.

She added that there is a need to construct special schools for autistic children to help fight stigma and victimisation and deter keeping them at home.

“Most schools are rejecting these children and it poses a very big challenge on us as parents and caregivers leading to frustrations,” Ondiek noted.

By Rolex Omondi

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