Dotun Akande bares her mind to Adaeze Amos of Sunday Punch on her fears and regrets

Excerpts of Interview with Punch of April 8, 2007

You run a special school for children, what is it all about?
I run a special school known as Patrick Speech and Languages Centre. Its a school for children with autism. I was working in a Bank and all of a sudden I found myself in this field because I have a son who was autistic and I had to work with him on my own. After a couple of years, about four, five years, we found he can be helped. It is not a disorder that cannot be helped if you work on such children at an early stage.

Autism, in your son didn’t scare you or make you lose focus, what then can get you scared?
Having a child in my centre that will not respond to treatment, that is my greatest fear.

If you will have to live your life again, will you still do what you are doing now?
Yes, I will do that. I love working with children. It is a pleasure for a little boy to walk into my office and walk through the door into my school and I see the boy run towards me to give me a hug. If If come back again and again, I will work with these children. They open up like flowers. You see them opening up every petal in their lives.

Most people have regrets in life, what is yours?
My regret is that I should have gone in the first instance to become a teacher. When I was in school, I hated teachers. my regret is that I should have gone deeper into it to work on the lives of these children. I should have gone to a teacher training college to train as a teacher. I would really have loved that.

If you were to ask God something, what would it be?
Father, why do we have these children among us that we can’t understand? And since 1944, we have had autism in our midst and nobody has been able to find a cure because we don’t understand these children.

When last did you shed tears and what caused it?
It was a pleasure for an autistic little boy to walk through the door into my office and he ran towards me and gave me a hug and said “Good morning, Ma” I hugged him, carried him and and cried. I remember shedding tears of joy, thanking God for that little child. It was a divine joy for me to see one of my children that couldn’t say anything walk up to me to say good morning ma.

Some women spend fortunes celebrating birthdays, how much did you spend when you celebrated your last birthday?
I don’t spend fortunes on birthdays. Rather, I prefer celebrating when an autistic child start doing things he couldn’t do before. For instance, I prefer celebrating clapping. What I mean is that I celebrate when a five-year old who couldn’t clap because of autism starts clapping or a child who has problems with his speeches starts to speak. It gives me joy to celebrates that than my birthday. I celebrate a child for saying ‘ha’. That is what I take delight to celebrate for. They are the little things of life I celebrate, not my birthday.

See Punch of April 8, 2007 for complete text of interview.