I mentioned before that my Autism journey started at Patrick Speech and Language Center. Mrs. Dotun Akande is the proprietress of Patricks (as it is called for short).
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Mrs Akande for the blog, as part of our Autism Awareness Month. When I asked her about how her journey into autism started, she smiled. She told me that her journey started with her son, Agbolade. Agbolade was diagnosed with autism at age 4, but before that, his mum sought for help for him while seeking for the doctor’s diagnosis. She got him different professionals to work with him. And she said she stayed with them for a long time, even though it took a while for him to show the expected progress. She said that he was learning, but did not show progress for a while. And then he eventually picked up. More than 10 years later, Agbolade is about to go to College. And he is exceptionally good in Mathematics and Sciences.
With her experience in helping her own child, when the Holy Spirit told her to start a center for children with autism, she set out to help other parents like herself who need help for their children with autism. This vision has birthed Patrick Speech and Language Center and Pure Souls Learning Foundation. Patrick Speech, which started in 2006, provides different services for individuals with autism and other related disorders, ranging from age 3 to age 35 years. Their services include behaviour modification, speech therapy, occupational therapy, music therapy, social integration, vocational skill training for adults and teenagers, and much more. They even prepare their teenagers and adults to work in offices. The students have both the group class and one-on-one experiences. The aim of all their services is to help these individuals attain maximum independence. Patricks has employed some of their former students, and they are paid salary.
On the other hand Pure Souls, which started a year later, is an NGO that finances the education of some children with special needs, whose parents cannot afford education for their children. Pure Souls is also involved in creating awareness about autism and training professionals that work with these children, and they provide support for parents of children with autism. Pure Souls has taken autism awareness beyond the borders of Lagos to different States of the Federation, and they have trained professionals in different States as well.
Mrs. Akande said that being a parent of a child on the spectrum has really influenced her work, because it gives her hope for each child that is brought to the center. She does not believe that any child’s case is hopeless. Her experience drives the work in Patricks, as she will not take less than excellent service from the therapists. Patricks spends quality amount of their budget in getting their therapists trained, so that they can keep giving better and more quality service to these individuals that are in their care. She also said that her experience encourages other parents and gives them hope. And sincerely, hope is very important for both the parents and the people that work with these individuals.
Mrs Akande has a message for parents of children with autism. She says that they should be patient with their children and not change therapists anyhow. She said her son did not seem like he was making progress for years, as he did not talk, but she did not change therapists. And eventually, it paid off, as he has done very well over the years. She also says that they should be involved in their children's lives, love and support their children with autism, without neglecting the other children they have.
For siblings and family members, she says they should be patient. Siblings should understand that their parents may give their sibling with autism more attention because special needs children require a lot of attention, but that does not mean they are loved less by the parents. They also need to love and support that special needs sibling.
Talking about Religious houses, she said they should please integrate children with autism and other special needs in their places of worship. Everybody has a part to play.
She does not leave out the professionals that work with these children. She says to them, please give quality service. Even though money is important, you cannot be in this business for the money. Go for trainings and improve at what you do, as these individuals need quality education.
Before I left her office, Mrs Akande prayed for me. By the time I left her office, I had been so inspired. The Autism community is so blessed to have this woman. I hope one day, the same will be said of me.
Thank you for reading *Hugs*