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Experts advocate sustainable support system for children, adults with autism disorder

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Experts in various sectors have called on the need for a sustainable support system for children and adult living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).The call was made at the Guaranty Trust Bank Plc. 8th edition of its yearly Autism Conference held in Lagos, which had participants across the health and education sector, industries, non-governmental organisations, parents among others, with the theme: “Raising a child with autism, the role of family and the community”.

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), ASD is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person’s life. It affects social interaction, communication, interest and behaviour of persons.

Further reports by the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that one in 160 children live with ASD worldwide.Speaking on the level of importance placed on the health condition, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, GTB, Segun Agbaje said ASD in Nigeria is hardly diagnosed and rarely understood, as children living with the disorder often suffer stigmatisation from families and the community.

He said as a life-long challenge, every child living with ASD, which is a complex disorder, will face unique set of hurdles at every stage of their lives, noting that they have the capacity to learn, grow and lead meaningful lives, which require creating solid sustainable support system that empower children living with autism and help them thrive.

Speaking on the role of government in autism advocacy, the Special Adviser to the Lagos state governor, on Social Development, Joyce Onafowokan lamented that Nigerians are slowly coming to terms with global efforts in science of health, which is further exacerbated by the fact that they oftentimes have traditional explanation for everything, including those, for which there is no scientific determination.”This has been a clear case for persons living with ASD, as our society is yet to fully understand what it is and how to respond to the reality of the disorder around us,” she said.

She said the circumstance has posed challenges to the Lagos state government and formed the basic of its focus in the area of disability, noting that there has been an increased focus on early childhood intervention, which plays a major role in managing the outcomes of the condition of the patients.

She said the government is playing a major role in ensuring that the infrastructure and capacity are built to provide early intervention for children from their birth to the age of four.

On her part, the Director, Patrick Speech and Language Center, Lagos, Dotun Akande, expressed concern on the level of advocacy of the health disorder in communities, adding that just as a child belong to the parents, it also takes the community to raise that child.She said in order to eliminate stigmatisation, there is need to create awareness and sensitise the public on the health condition, which most people are unaware of.Akande who spoke on “The Strength of Collaboration in Raising a Chi


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