Kisumu Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have teamed up with the County and National governments to create awareness of autism as the world marks World Autism Month.
The sensitisation campaign seeks the right to inclusion as most Autistic children are always misunderstood and labeled as kids with mental issues.
Batholomew Agengo, the coordinator of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) Kisumu, says there is a lot of ignorance in the community when it comes to autism.
Agengo said that in Kisumu, there are about 200,000 registered people with disabilities including those with Autism.
“People assume that autism is a mental issue rather than a disability. It is different with each person and most of them grow without problems.
He lauded Lutheran Special Schools for coming up with a unit in the school for children with autism and urged the government and well-wishers to support the school with the required equipment to help the children.
“I am really pleased with the Lutheran special school for establishing the Autism unit,” he said, adding, “I have visited the unit myself, the teachers are capable and very willing to help these children and it is our duty as the community to support them.”
Agengo pointed out that the government has to play a big role in supporting children with Autism and their parents.
Further, he stated that as an association, they have several programs to support PWDs that include those with autism. In partnership with the Department of Health, they have been carrying out a mass registration of PWDs so that they can be accessed and receive the assistance needed.
“The assessment and registration of PWDs have enabled us to know their number in the region, with this information we can ensure all of them receive assistance in terms of finances and devices to help them in their daily activities,” he noted.
He challenged parents with autistic children to join and form registered self-help groups, which will put them in a position to apply for economic development grants.
Agengo persuaded parents to allow their children to interact with the community and create awareness in the community, saying acceptance is a long journey that involves prejudice and biases but for it to be achieved, awareness is a priority.
“Do not hide these children, let them live like other children, access education as these will help create awareness in the community, once educated they will accept them like any other child,” he expounded.
Faridah Sat, Director Winam Child Without Limit, said that during this awareness month, they are determined as an organization to join with other partners, to ensure people in Kisumu County are educated about Autism as most of them are not aware that such conditions exist.
According to Sat, there are no autism therapy centres in Kisumu. She said there is a need for people to understand and accept people with autism, foster support nationally and be an inspiration for this special group.
“People’s ignorance towards autism is unbelievably high. We hope to overcome this ignorance through this campaign by going deep into the local communities and taking steps to move forward into a more inclusive and accepting world, “she explained.
She lauded several schools like Joyland Special School for Physically Handicapped, which have therapy centers in the school and called upon sponsors to support such schools by equipping the centres.
Sat further encouraged caregivers and society to embrace neuro-diverse development in ensuring inclusivity and education equality.
Caroline Agwanda, the advisor to Kisumu Governor on Women and PWDs’ issues, said that it was important for parents of autistic children to have an association at the ward level so that during disability meetings they are represented.
“We want a representative in every ward so that during policy reviews, we can know what we are doing wrong, what they want to be done so that they are well represented and needs are met,” Agwanda explained.
She appreciated the role the partners of CSOs are playing and encouraged them to be included as ambassadors at their organizations.
Agwanda cheerfully said that Kisumu is the most inclusive county for PWDs and the governor’s interest is to work as a team with civil society, caregivers, and teachers.
By Evangeline Mola and Lorine Awino