Thursday, February 13, 2014

Autism is not...

A couple of years ago, a six year old boy was brought to the special needs education centre where I worked at the time, for assessment. His teacher had told his parents that he had autism because he was stubborn. Our centre was recommended to them, so we had to do the assessment. And then lecture them on what autism really is.
We have talked previously on what autism is, let’s talk now on what autism is not.
Autism is NOT imbecility: Some people consider children with autism as imbeciles. Originally, the word imbecile is used to describe anybody with an IQ below 50 and above 20. These set of individuals are considered as ineducable. Children with autism are educable and they are not stupid, so cannot be referred to as imbeciles.
Autism is NOT a disorder for children of rich people: Some people consider autism as a social disorder. Many times when I meet people and I mention that I work with children living with autism, they say that “there’s money in your work na. Their parents are rich”. Some even argue with me when I try to educate them. Be INFORMED! Autism has absolutely nothing to do with the social status of the parents. Children with autism are found in rich, middle class and poor families. They are born in urban areas and rural areas. Autism is no respecter of social status.
Autism is NOT as a result of bad parenting: It’s always painful to see or hear people talk negatively about parents of children with special needs. Some parents face stigmatization because they have a child with special needs. Please people, they didn’t ask for a special needs child. They need your love and support. Autism is not a result of bad or poor parenting. The parents have no blame in the condition of their child. They have had to learn to accept and love their child and provide the support the child needs. We should support them too. 
Autism is NOT a curse: One reason some Nigerian parents don’t find help early for their child with autism is that they spend years taking the child from one prayer house to another, because they think it is a curse or something of that nature. Please, autism is not a curse. Nobody is “doing” the child. It is a disorder and that is all that there is to it. I am not against praying for the child, but you need to ensure that the child gets the right help. Two scriptures from the Bible ring in my heart now. One is that faith without works is dead, so parents should put their faith to work and get help for the child. The other scripture says that we do not receive answers to our prayers because we pray outside God’s will. Praying against a curse where there’s no curse seems like praying amiss to me.
Autism is NOT the consequence for witchcraft: Some people also accuse parents of children with autism of witchcraft or occultism. Why na? Must we spiritualise everything? Like I said earlier, it is not the parents fault. Also nobody is doing the child.
Autism is NOT a name for naughty children: Like the case in my introduction, some teachers or people think that autism is a name or title for children that are naughty. There’s no correlation, abeg. It is not a name or title for naughty children. We have talked about what autism is in a previous article. You will do well to check it out.
Autism does NOT define the child: Many times we limit children with autism or any other form of special needs because we define them by the disorder. Yes we need to be patient with them, love them and let them move at their pace, but that does not mean we should limit them because of the disorder. These children are seeking to express themselves, we should let them. We should seek for the help that they need so as to be independent. We should not raise them to be helpless, because we are trying to be understanding. Also I have to say that we do not refer to a person with autism as “AUTISTIC”. Rather the appropriate thing to say is “a person (living) with autism” or “a person on the autism spectrum”.
Autism is NOT the end of the world: One major reason for autism awareness is to give hope to parents of children on the autism spectrum. The fact that a child has autism does not stop the child’s future. That is why there are professionals that provide therapy for children with autism. They are there to care for the child and help the child attain maximum independence.
Much love from me to you in this valentine season...muah

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