By O’star Eze
Autism specialists recently took parents to task on the need to carefully study their children especially during their formative stage, adding that many autistic children who would have impacted greatly on their society were lost as a result of not detecting and attending to them early, Orient Daily reports.
Mrs. Ify Enekwechi, the senior special assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on Special Education who convened the ‘Autism Awareness Day’ recently at the Kenneth Dike Library, Awka, noted, in her welcome address, that the likes of Bill Gates and Donald Trump would not have made as much historical impact if their parents did not detect and attend to them early in life.
Enekwechi disclosed that the behavioural symptoms of autistic children include problems with social interaction like poor eye contact, not pointing out items of interest, preferring to be alone to being around people, not responding when called by their names. She said that such children would have communication problems such as limited or no language, difficulty starting or having a conversation and not playing make-believe with toys. “These children could also exhibit repetitive or obsessive behaviours like repetitive play, unusual obsession like wanting to use only one colour or repetitive speech, sound or body movement,” she said.
The autism specialist advised parents who notice any of these symptoms in their children to refer them to doctors who would run proper diagnosis and recommend specialists that would aid them correct the defects they exhibit.
Prisca Nathaniel, the principal of Peace Therapeutic Special School, Onitsha and a specialist for children with special needs lamented that most parents with autistic children live in denial.
Nathaniel, who brought along some children with special needs under her care, advised parents to stop labelling any of their children that do not behave normally. She also advised them to learn to be patient with such children and pay close attention to their behaviour, while calling on the government to help in increasing awareness on autism.
Dr. Mmasinachi Umeh, the only official clinical psychologist in the state, while applauding the organisers of the event and lamented the paucity of clinical psychologists and specialists. She said such were the people who handle developmental problems like autism and encouraged psychology students to strive to study clinical psychology. Umeh, who is also the State Youth Counsellor said, “Most health conditions that defy conventional medical explanation are psychosomatic conditions that can be cracked and treated by clinical psychologists.”
She also advised mothers to be more observant of the temperament of their children adding that children with autism require cognitive restructuring and cognitive enrichment. “Parents of such children should protect them from emotional stress,” Umeh said.
The Anambra state Deputy Governor, Dr. Nkem Okeke, was represented by Dr. Charles Nwufo, Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Special Duties. He and Honourable Willie Nwokoye, principal secretary to the Anambra State Governor, promised to increase government involvement in autism publicity and sensitisation.
Nze Uche Nworah, managing director of the Anambra State Broadcasting Service also promised to support the project saying that it was high time Nigerian society started paying closer attention to autistic children. He reiterated that such children, if well handled, have a lot of innate potential that can be tapped by the society. “Autistic children have a high tendency of being geniuses if properly managed,” he observed.
Several people donated towards autism cause, chief of whom was Chief Emeka Igwe, a House of Assembly aspirant. Igwe also promised to involve autism awareness in his subsequent medical outreaches.
Mrs Patience Okeke, Dr Vera Okechukwu, Barrister Genevieve Osakwe, Prince Obinna Ndigwe, Elder and Mrs Afamefuna Ndife, principal of God’s Care School for Special Needs, Amaenyi-Awka, were among other resource persons that attended the event.