An awareness and education campaign that aims to identify children at risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) so appropriate interventions can begin as soon as possible. We aim to change the erroneous stereotypes that ASDs are rare, foreign and upper class disease. We want to replace fear and stigma with hope, help and an understanding that parents are not the cause of their child’s autism, and that autism is not a result of bad parenting.
· This campaign will discourage parents from hiding and locking up their children at home.
· It will enlighten the public and improve their acceptance and understanding of the special needs of persons with autism.
· To stir up an interest amongst relevant professionals and motivate them to research and update professional knowledge in the various aspects of ASD.
· It is expected that parents of children with this condition will be brought together under a functional parent group: AUTISM NIGERIA.
This campaign is necessary because at present, no educational institution in the country offers specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of autism. Not even in any of the many departments of Psychology or special education in our Universities. Students learn about autism but only in passing, a skeletal mention. I am not aware of any University in Nigeria that offers degree programmes in speech/language pathology, and occupational therapy. There are of course special education departments that offer lecture/courses in speech related fields, but do not qualify graduates to practice as speech therapist whether here or abroad. Yet nearly all children with autism have challenges that require professional interventions by a speech /language pathologist. To the best of my knowledge, there only about 3 speech pathologists practicing in Nigeria and all are in Lagos. Yet we have an estimated 190,000 children needing such therapy. I am also aware of the facility located at the premises of the Psychiatric Hospital Yaba, which offers Diploma Programmes in Occupational Therapy. The question however, is to what extent does their curriculum prepare graduates to effectively help the growing number of persons with autism? It is hoped also, that this awareness campaign will suggest to the relevant departments to offer autism specific courses that will equip graduates with needed skills, which will benefit the entire autism community.
In summary therefore, this project aims to encourage early detection of autism so that intervention can begin early. It further seeks to encourage the availability of needed specialized services for those with a diagnosis and those at risk.
To achieve these objectives, Autism Associates targets her awareness campaign to:
i) Parents /Public
iii) Educational Institution/Government
· Production and distribution of awareness brochures
· Production and placement of banners with motivating inscriptions
· Production & distribution of posters showing early warning signs of ASD
· Production of T-Shirts
· Awareness seminars, conferences and workshops
· Music concert and Art Exhibitions
competitions amongst Nursery and Primary Schools