Wednesday, May 31, 2017

MENTAL HEALTH: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The first time I ever heard of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) was in the 1997 movie, As Good as It Gets. It’s a movie about a writer who has OCD and his love interest, basically. As much as I knew it then, I didn’t appreciate it until many years later, when working with children on the spectrum made me read about it.
 
Image credit: Poster from Wikipedia

Working with children with autism, I have heard people talk about OCD in relations to autism, with some confusing OCD with autism symptoms. But what exactly is OCD?

Image credit: https://manhattanpsychologygroup.com/obsessive-compulsive-disorder/


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is said to be a type of Anxiety Disorder, characterized by repetitive and compulsive behaviors that are a result of fears and distressing thoughts (obsessive). The behaviors are used to cope with the fears and thoughts, they feel like the behavior will avert something bad from happening. These behaviors range from ritualized washing, tapping, touching, arranging and rearranging, checking, apologizing, and certain mental rituals such as counting, or praying.

Image credigt: https://www.askdrshah.com/blog/tips-overcome-obsessive-compulsive-disorder/


Although like OCD, people on the autism spectrum show repetitive behaviors, people on the spectrum will most likely not think it through and can be unaware of what they are doing, and it may just be because they enjoy the behavior, so the behavior is not as a result of fearful thoughts. People that have OCD are afraid of germs and contamination, harm coming to them or to others, intruders, that they may harm others, among other things. And then display these compulsive behaviors as responses to such thoughts.

Image credit: https://sites.google.com/a/cms.k12.nc.us/ap-psych-2a/ocd-and-other-compulsive-disorders


But then can a person on the spectrum have OCD?

Last year, I shared on this blog about Anxiety, and I mentioned that it can be a comorbid disorder in some people living with autism. It is the same for OCD. According to a 2011 study, about 17% of people on the spectrum meet the criteria for OCD (Van Steensel, Bogels, and Perrin, 2011), but according to Autism Speaks, the percentage of people on the spectrum that have OCD ranges from 8% to 33%. Although these statistics are based on studies in the US, and we do not have recorded data in Nigeria, there are families that have expressed concerns about anxiety disorder and OCD in their children and adults on the spectrum.

According to Autism Speaks, OCD is not common in children on the spectrum, because it develops in adolescents and adults. The cause of OCD is not fully known, but medical professionals suggest that it can be genetic as it has a tendency to run in certain families, or a result of habits that one may have developed over a long period of time.

If you think that you may have OCD or as a parent you think your teenager or adult on the autism spectrum may have OCD, speak to a psychiatrist about it. Although there is no cure for OCD, there are treatments that enable the patient cope better. As I said earlier, it is a type of Anxiety Disorder, and so it can be treated through therapy (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), or in some cases medications. Family support is also important in helping people with OCD. Family members can help by praising the efforts of the person with OCD, but no matter what you do, DO NOT make negative comments about the person’s disorder.

May is Mental Health Month, the mental health of everyone is important, including our children, teenagers, and adults on the autism spectrum. Let's get educated about our mental health.



Resources


Sunday, April 30, 2017

RIGHTS: WILL YOU SPEAK FOR ME?

I met some people on the autism spectrum on Twitter last year. They spoke for themselves, about the disorder, the struggles and the blessing of autism. I visited their blogs and learnt more about them and their autism experiences.

That day I got to a client’s house, and looking at him I wished he could speak for himself. I wish he could talk about his struggles, his victories, his needs, and much more. But I realized that his mum has been speaking for him, actually both parents but I have had cause to interact with his mum more. By interacting with her, I have learnt a lot about him, how far he has come, and I have learnt to appreciate his journey.

If parents don’t speak up for their children on the spectrum, how can people understand? It’s important to get early intervention, therapy, SEN support for your child, but beyond that be the VOICE for your child.
This caption captures my thoughts


A mother told me that sometime ago, she went to her child’s school to lecture the teachers on anxiety and sensory processing disorder in children with autism, helping them understand some of the challenges that her child has to deal with daily. She said that it changed the teacher’s disposition towards her child, and she noticed progress in her child’s learning.

What if she never spoke up for her child?

Another advantage of speaking out for your child is that you may be speaking up for another child, you may be giving hope to another parent. Sometimes all a mother needs is the assurance that she is not alone, and you will be giving her hope by speaking up.

Today, April ends. But does autism awareness end? It doesn’t. Autism awareness continues. Autism advocacy continues. We will continue to be the voice that speaks for children, adolescents, and adults that live with autism. We will continue to speak for their families.
I speak for children that I teach


I want to appreciate those who have supported the blog by sharing the articles throughout the month. I want to encourage you to continue sharing, not just articles from this blog, but also other articles on autism. Let us be the voice of those who cannot speak for themselves. People with autism have the RIGHT TO HAVE A VOICE.

Friday, April 28, 2017

DO YOU KNOW PLAY HELPS CHILDREN WITH AUTISM AND DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS

I read a quote credited to Dr Stuart Brown, “Nothing lights up a child’s brain like play”. It is said that children learn by play, and play is important for healthy development in children. According to Jona K. Anderson and Sandra J. Bailey, 75% of brain development happens after birth, and play helps with that development by stimulating the brain through the formation of connections between nerve cells. Play helps with development of fine and gross motor skills, language and communication, socialization skills, creative and thinking skills. Children learn to solve problems in play (The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Development, www.msuextension.org).

One man and his team has taken this literally and they play with all children, helping to boost their development. This program is directed at children with developmental delays and all other children. The children they work with build different skills as they play together.


The Playsmart Concept is a full service child development consultancy that works with the global concept of ‘play’. They provide play based programs for preschools and primary schools called Smart Play, with emphasis on learning readiness. They also provide support in form of therapy for children with developmental delays.

According to them, their main focus is promoting and providing play based programs for children and support for children with developmental delays. Having worked for close to 10 years with children with developmental delays, they have seen that every child develops optimally when exposed to developmentally appropriate play based programs.

As you should be aware, children with autism have developmental delays, so Playsmart Concepts provides opportunities for children with autism to develop earlier through play.

I first heard of Playsmart Concepts when I saw an advert for their Saturday play programs. Then I asked to volunteer at one of their programs, and I saw how all the children responded very well. And they had testimonies of the children I could recognize as being on the autism spectrum, how they had made progress in the time they had spent attending their programs.
 

The play program created an inclusive environment, as there was no segregation or discrimination. A child cannot be wrong in play, so all the children had free expression of themselves. I saw a child who didn’t seem like she wanted to play with the others when she came in lighten up as the play progressed.

The Playsmart Concepts team is led by Mr Isa Gabriel who has had the experience of working with children, using play as a tool for more than a decade.

I am happy to celebrate Mr Isa and The Playsmart Concepts team today, because of the part they play in the lives of our children living with Autism. Inclusion of people on the autism spectrum in the society is very dear to me, and The Playsmart Concepts is not only helping with inclusion, but also they are helping our children develop better.

You can learn more about Playsmart Concepts by visiting their website www.playsmartconcepts.org

Thursday, April 27, 2017

RIGHT TO PROTECTION

Working with children that have autism over the years, I have seen parents leave out sensitive issues like their child having the tendency to wander, or being prone to seizures when they bring the child to school. They may have sincere reasons, but then it may be putting the security of the child at risk.

In 2013, a parent brought her son to the school I worked at the time, and she told us he had wandered the previous Christmas. This information was very helpful because, not only were we more conscious of the general school security, we paid close attention to this boy, and realised that if we were not careful we could lose him somehow. He did attempt to wander, but because we knew he could, he did not succeed. Not just that, we notified people in the environment that we had children that had the tendency to try to run, making them realise that it didn’t depend on  whether we were nice to the children or not, but these kids just had the tendency. Somehow, in that community we had eyes everywhere, including our gates. When people saw our kids at the gate, they called out to us, without assuming that we probably sent the child on an errand.
Photo credit: www.autismtopics.org


In another case, I have seen a child have seizures in school and the school was unaware that he was prone to that. When they called the mum, she was not surprised, she just “handled” it. Thank God the school knew what to do.

A parent cannot always be around the child at all times, but as a parent, you can put things in place to ensure your child’s safety. Many parents have testified that their child was saved from wandering because people in the neighbourhood recognized him/her, and were able to call their attention. What you have done by not hiding your child is to empower others to protect him/her.
Photo credit: Pintrest


Also, in a time when people are evil, it is important that other members of the community take child security as a communal task. Many children living with autism in Nigeria are non-verbal or have limitations with communication, so that means that they may not be able to call for help, but when you sense danger as a teacher, a neighbour, or as someone lucky to be around the corner, don’t just overlook, ask questions.
We have to work together to protect our children on the spectrum
Photo credit: Pintrest



I am not saying that you should live in fear, what I am saying is that you should put things in place for your child’s safety. Children with autism have a right to being protected, and we can all play our part as members of the community.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

CHILDREN RESTORATION INITIATIVE

This is autism awareness month. Every April on this blog, I have tried to do more than autism awareness. Autism is not just a disorder somewhere, it is a condition that families have to live with; parents, siblings, cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents, even spouses. So every year, I usually talk first about people that have children with autism, and then people that provide respite in their own ways.

This week, I am celebrating people and organizations that support families that have children on the spectrum. I am particularly excited about the group I am sharing about today.

The Children Restoration Initiative (CRI) has been around for a while, but somehow have been doing amazing things without drawing attention to themselves. Born primarily from experience as parents of children on the spectrum, these parents are helping other families, creating autism awareness, and are strongly involved in advocacy for better education for children with autism and other special needs.



According to their website, CRI is a registered non-profit educational advocacy group established by reform-minded parents in response to the dearth in educational services for children and young adults with special needs in the Nigerian education system. They campaign for the enforcement of existing legislation that ensure the provision of free, tailored education and related services within the public school system.
Book on autism awareness by one of the CRI parents

Autism awareness in a school

CRI is actively involved in autism awareness, emphasizing on the importance of early intervention in autism treatment and support. They campaign for peer autism awareness and acceptance, so they go around schools, educating pupils alongside teachers and other members of staff. CRI presently supports the inclusive education unit in one of the public schools in Lagos metropolis.
Working on the inclusive education unit

Inclusive education unit before renovation

Inclusive education unit before renovation

Let me throw this here, as fan club. A CRI member

Inclusive education unit after renovation

Inclusive education unit after renovation

Autism therapy is quite expensive, and many families in Nigeria cannot afford therapy. Considering that there is no government support subsidizing therapy for families, CRI supports some low income families that cannot afford therapy for their children on the spectrum. They raise the money for these supports from their personal pockets and the kind support of other people and NGOs.
CRI helped provide hearing aids for this boy with autism whose widowed mother could not afford

Today I choose to celebrate The Children Restorative Initiative for all they do in creating autism awareness, education advocacy for children with special needs, and supporting families that have children with autism in different ways.
To learn more about CRI or to contact them, visit www.tcri-ng.org or call +2348133571965, or send them an email info@tcri-ng.org.

What are you doing to support autism?

Monday, April 24, 2017

HAVE YOU BEEN RHIMAMORIED?

You’ll find out soon!

A few years ago, a centre where I worked needed sensory brushes, we were told that we had to buy in obodo-oyinbo (abroad). Imagine my joy when I got a new Facebook friend, and I saw sensory brushes on the wall. The name was Rhimamory Res (Resources).



I initially thought Rhimamory Resources was created to meet the needs of children with autism, especially as every autism center that I knew of was shopping from them. But I later realized, from their social media posts, that they were meeting the needs of typical children as well. Chatting with the director of the company, she also confirmed it, that they actually meet the needs of all children.

Rhimamory Resources sells educational materials for all children in Nigeria. Speaking with the director, Mudi Nwachukwu, she said that she believes that all children, regardless of location, should have access to educational toys and materials. So if you follow them on Instagram or Facebook, you will see posts about deliveries to different parts of Nigeria. Although they are based in Lagos, they deliver all over Nigeria; North, East, West, and South.

Mudi Nwachukwu’s goal is to ensure that every child in Nigeria has access to high quality educational materials, and not be limited by location. She did not start her business to meet needs of children with special needs, but it has made her very happy to be able to meet the needs of these children. Rhimamory Resources has always tried to help parents find materials that they particularly need for their children, and she believes that that is how they have been able to meet the needs of families that have children on the autism spectrum.

Mudi is a trained lawyer, but as a mother, when her children were much younger she always had people complimenting her for the educational materials she bought her kids. Eventually she started helping her friends shop for educational materials whenever she traveled, and now she is meeting the needs of many more families than she planned for. Rhimamory started on Instagram and Facebook, but they now have a website, www.rhimamory.com, where people can shop for educational materials for their schools, their children, and can also gift to others.
Rhimamory has a gift corner on the website


Mudi says that she is happy to be able to reduce the stress of parents, who no longer have to worry about how they will get materials that they need for their children. Interviewing parents and asking for the kind of needs that they want to meet in their child helps her to suggest the appropriate materials for the child. For example, if a parent goes to any store and needs materials for fine motor, the store keeper may not be able to give exactly what they need, so parents can come to Rhimamory and they will be sure that they will get what will achieve the purpose they want to meet.

I asked her what materials autism parents usually requests for. According to her, speech or communication development is very important to parents of children on the autism spectrum, so flashcards on alphabets, numbers, action words, and related subjects are quite common. Parents buy everything, ranging from building blocks, to materials that build fine motor skills, materials for sensory integration, curly straws, and they buy anything that aids learning. Children with autism use the same materials as typical children, and she is able to help parents pick specific materials to meet specific needs. That's what it means to be RHIMAMORIED!

You can follow @rhimamory on Instagram, and you should visit their website www.rhimamory.com.

This week on Autism Gist with Adelola, I am celebrating organizations that are supporting children with autism or the autism community in different ways. And I have chosen to start with Mudi and the Rhimamory team. In meeting the needs of all children, they are supporting our own children as well.


Although I will be continuing with my posts on RIGHTS of individuals on the autism spectrum, please watch out for the next set of people to celebrate on Wednesday and Friday. You don’t want to miss out on their gists.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Autism Awareness Everywhere and in Every Way

This year’s autism month has been so busy for us in the autism community in Nigeria. Just yesterday, the 3-day free consultation program for indigent families that have children with developmental disorders was concluded. There were behaviour analysts, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, educational diagnosticians, nutritionists, counsellors, and psychologists (In hope I covered everything). Many parents said that the consultation programme really helped them, and they felt empowered to work with their children now.



A lot has been done as regards autism awareness as well. Blazing Heart Autism Center, Port-Harcourt kicked off awareness on a golf course. They had a golf tournament on the 1st of April, tagged Golf4Hope, and there was a good turnout of people, giving them an opportunity to create autism awareness.

On that same April 1, Olamma for Autism Awareness Foundation had a walk for autism in Lagos. The walk held at Ifako, Gbagada. They shared fliers and spoke to people about autism as they walked.

April 8 was for our Dance for Autism Awareness event (Read details here)

This week, the Autism Awareness Place visited some schools to create autism awareness.

In Abuja, 2 different organizations had awareness events on Saturday the 22nd; OLG Foundation/Autism Center held a seminar on autism, and Dewdrops Community Center for Special Needs had an Autism Awareness Family Funfair. I saw pictures from the Family Funfair, and it was quite obvious that they had a lot of fun as they created autism awareness, while creating an opportunity for inclusive interaction for neurotypical children and children with autism and other special needs, and their families. Lola SNAP gives detailed gist about the event.






Autism is a spectrum of disorders that affects behaviour, social skill, and communication skill. Because autism awareness level in Nigeria is relatively low, even though more families are being discovered to have children on the spectrum, it is important that we find as many ways as possible to raise the awareness and drive the message home. This will help with early detection, diagnosis, and intervention. Awareness will also make room for support and inclusion for people living with autism and their families.

The month is not yet over, so there is still more to come. In Lagos alone, on April 29, there will be a walk for autism on the mainland, and a ZUMBATHON Charity Event to support Autism Awareness on the Island.
Different organizations are coming together for the WALK AWAKE AUTISM, and we will gather at the Ndubuisi Kanu Park at Alausa, Ikeja by 7am, and we will start the walk latest by 8am. You can call 08129184050, 08031912759, and 08166218444 for details on how to register. I am aware that there are shirts for sale, and they go for N2000.

At 7.30am on the same day, at Lagos Preparatory School Ikoyi, the Zumbathon Charity Event will kick off. Please join us at 36/40 Glover road, Ikoyi to dance as we support autism awareness. Raffle tickets are available for N1000. To purchase tickets or for details, you can call 08083799035 or 08023196690.

Until there is autism awareness and acceptance everywhere in Nigeria, we will continue to do all that we can to create it. Be part of autism awareness by being part of these programs and inviting others.


Will I see you on Saturday?

Before I forget. have you supported PISON THERAPY CENTER?