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Love without Boundaries with Bukola Ayinde: Every Child Deserves to Go to School

Love without Boundaries with Bukola Ayinde: Every Child Deserves to Go to School Every child, no matter the race, ability or status deserves to go to school. They deserve to be respected and treated with dignity. Quality education should not be an exclusive right of children who are physically fit and able to sit with the right posture. The fact that a child looks or acts differently from other children doesn’t automatically exclude him from getting a befitting education. Recently, I spoke with a man whose seven-year old son has cerebral palsy. Fortunately, the man is a teacher so he put his son in the school where he teaches. At the end of the term, his son was the best student in the class. However, the school refused to give the boy the first position because (according to the school) it would look bad if a child with disabilities is seen to perform better than other children without disabilities. After that term, the father was encouraged by the school to remove the boy from mainstream school and enroll him in a special needs school. I asked the father what his son does in the special needs school. According to him, he does a few exercises and he is taught to put together some learning blocks. In plain terms, the boy’s life had regressed. I encouraged him to look for a mainstream school to put his son and I told him that his son will surprise him in the future. I must say that not all special needs schools do nothing. There are other special needs schools in the country doing amazing work. Albeit, the goal of the special needs school is to prepare the children in their care to be integrated into mainstream schools. Some weeks back, I visited Patrick Speech and Language Center, a school for children with Autism. The amiable Mrs. Dotun Akande took me around to see the center. Fantastic, I was impressed with what she had done in the school. When a child gets to Patrick Speech, the child is assessed to determine how best to work with him/her. Once work begins with the child and there is significant improvement in his behavior, he is introduced into the mainstream school gradually. The child could start with two or three times a week in the mainstream school and the other days at Patrick Speech until he is able to make the full transition. Sometimes, the children may require some level of assistance in the mainstream school. A caregiver or assistant could step in where necessary. However, the children who are unable to make the transition are taught life skills and vocational training such as shoe making, bead making, sewing, art work and many more. On the other hand, I have once suggested to a parent to withdraw her child from a mainstream school. The school her child was attending claimed to run an inclusive center. However, her child was excluded from most activities and was kept at a corner of the class. When other parents complained about the boy (the parents requested that all the children with disabilities should leave the classroom) the school moved her son with some other boys who had autism to a separate class. Her son was not achieving anything excepting marking attendance. After I spent some moments watching her son, I realized that the boy will do better in a special school that understands his condition and has plans of helping him to get integrated into a mainstream school. I also suggested to her that if she could not afford such a special school, she should employ a behavioural therapist to work one on one with the boy at home until he can be integrated back to the mainstream school. My admonition to parents of children with disability is that they should obtain the right diagnosis for their children. That is the starting point. This diagnosis should come from a paediatric neurologist after series of test has been carried out. Secondly, no matter the diagnosis, believe your child can learn. Eventually, this may not be so but it is better to start early in teaching your child than to waste precious years based on wrong assumptions. Start teaching your child from the home. Talk to your child like you would your friend. Ask questions and expect feedback. Read to your child and introduce words to him/her. Even if he cannot speak, believe that he hears you and keep depositing knowledge into him. I have seen and read amazing stories of children whose parents believed that they could learn despite their complicated diagnosis and the children turned out surpassing their parents’ expectation. Your child’s story could be the next if only you try. Source: https://www.bellanaija.com/2018/03/love-without-boundaries-bukola-ayinde-every-child-deserves-go-school/  

Patricks Speech and Language Centre – The Beginning

“Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.” - Eckhart Tolle Anyone who meets the delectable Dotun Akande (Mrs) cannot help but notice her confidence and calm mien. A personal challenge that could tear some families apart and make other detest their children is the same one that prompted this mother into starting a centre that has brought hope and progress to parents of children living with autism. For Mrs Dotun Akande, she believes that children living with autismare like tender plants that only need a special type of nurturing to bloom. Her story is one that shows that our experiences have a way of stirring up purpose and birthing solutions to the challenges of others. The birth of her son was the foundation for this hope-giving centre. In 1998, Mrs Dotun travelled out of the country to give birth to her baby but had a traumatic 18-hour labour. It was an experience that made her wish for death. The pain was so excruciating that she asked for an epidural but was denied as it was too late to go for that option. She stayed in the hospital afterwards to ensure that all was well with her child and left after getting a clean bill of health. She did not notice anything unusual until she watched her son struggle with his use of words at age 1. In the bid to find out what could be wrong with her son, she met a doctor who had experience with children living with autism. The doctor advised her to travel abroad to get the help and intervention she needed for her child. She was unable to do this and tried to get her hands on Nigerian materials that addressed autism. After facing great frustration, she realized that Nigerians had little knowledge about what autism was. She read up on it and struggled to do what she could until she eventually got a speech therapist for her son.  It was a trying period for her as she did all this as a full-time banker. After doing some form of intervention that was available for her son, she thought about how a lot of Nigerian parents were going through the same challenge without support or knowledge of how to manage it. One day, she sat in the bathroom and thought about how she could make a difference. That was when it entered into her heart to start a learning centre for children living with autism. She discussed this dream with her speech therapist who promised to support her. Her husband believed in her and took it upon himself to draft the business plan. He also advised her to travel abroad and equip herself for the great task ahead. Enthusiastic about what her dream could do for others, Mrs Akande enrolled at the National Autism Society in the UK where she received training andgot the knowledge required to set up the centre. After the training ended, she visited other centres to observe and work with children living with autism. Upon her return, she wrote articles to sensitize the public about autism and how to handle it.As expected, the issue of funding came up,and she wrote to different banks seeking help to support the golden dream. Fortunately, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) took up the challenge and gave her all the help she needed. The centre opened its door in 2006 and started with three children. Currently, itcan cater to 48 children at once. The centre works with these children in conjunction with trained professionals who teach these children how to be the best. After a stipulated period, these children are allowed to join mainstream schools where they can do great things.New intakes come on board,and the success story gets better with every set. The main challenge of parents with children living with autismis the stigma of having special children or the fear that the children will never improve.A lot of parents complain about how their children are treated unfairly because they are different. The Patrick’s centre has come in to bridge this gap and help the children become useful to themselves and the society at large. Every month, the centre partners with foundations and NGOs to set up new initiatives and programs that teach parents patience, faith, hope and tolerance for the weight they have come to carry. The centre has become a beacon of hope and is gradually changing the effect of autism, one child at a time.

Meet the First Certified Autism Center in Nigeria: Patrick Speech & Languages

Source: www.certifiedautismspecialist.com

This Twitter User’s Testimony of How his Son Overcame Autism will Definitely Warm your Heart

Source: www.bellanaija.com

I could leave my children at school without heart palpitations; wondering if they were okay.

Patrick’s Speech and Language Therapy School served as lighthouse to my children and family at a time when we made the transition to Nigeria from the UK some years ago. Following previous negative reactions to schooling, the Patrick’s experience re-ignited the love of schooling in my children, Ezinwa and Chinyerengozi. Witnessing my son’s eyes aglow as he solved a mathematical problem on the board, my own eyes misty with tears of joy. (*This was in Mr Murphy’s class, after I had said that I simply had to witness the teaching process to understand how my children had begun to make such big strides in the learning and understanding; it was truly an eye-opening experience!). My children learned that boundaries are a good and necessary part of life, because the instruction at home was being reinforced at school and vice-versa .  The sense of isolation in parenting our special children was no longer the common experience and calmness and a palpable harmony was restored to our lives. I could leave my children at school without heart palpitations; wondering if they were okay.  As a parent it meant that once again I regained my life. God certainly used Patrick’s, to give my family and I some much needed ‘grace therapy’. Although we have now left Lagos, I believe the foundation Patrick’s offered us cannot be measured by words.  I commend Dotun Akande, the proprietress, for her big hearted, motherly approach to the children and her lovely team for their sincere and empathetic commitment.   Although it is true that your reward is in heaven, I believe that all Patricks staff will reap some reward as well this side of heaven.  As you celebrate 10 years, continue to dream big; God is bigger and able to fulfill more than our biggest dreams. Those special children are to show forth his glory, they are his light and you are his lighthouse! Keep on shining!

“…We left the healing process for God. We did our part by enrolling him in a therapy school.”

God will only do what  you can’t do. He won’t do what you can do. We left the healing process for God we did our part by enrolling him in a therapy school. – Mr. AJayi   Inioluwa was born 27th October 2010. I didn’t have any issue (I mean health problems) during his conception and delivery.  At birth he was low weight 1.8kg and had jaundice. The jaundice was a bit high so he was placed under the photo light for 3 days. Inioluwas’s growth was normal. At the age of 2, we discovered Inioluwa wasn’t talking. Initially we thought it was delayed speech because he was our first child, we didn’t know he was suppose to have started talking. However, we noticed some other behaviours that were off, he always wanted to be left alone, he didn’t socialize with other children or people, he was hyper couldn’t sit in a place, he liked arranging objects orderly, he loves opening and closing the doors, he couldn’t hold a pencil or crayon, he couldn’t ride his tricycle, he couldn’t feed himself, he was still using diaper etc.   We took him to the hospital, the doctor told us to do audiology test to know if he could hear after which he was referred to a neurologist and also a speech therapy school was recommended. We were referred to Patrick Speech and Language Centre. He went for a month summer school in 2013 at PSLC. We noticed some improvement. He went back to a regular school we noticed a relapse. We decided to take some steps. First we prayed to God to heal His son. That he should let His name be glorified through Inioluwa’s healing. Secondly, we had to enroll him at PSLC. After prayer we took action. The Bible says faith without works is dead. The word works means ACTION. God will only do what you can’t do. He won’t do what you can do. We left the healing process for God we did our part by enrolling him in a therapy school. Inioluwa’s was in PSLC for 2 sessions and a term. With the different therapy he was engaged in (sensory, behavioural, speech etc) and God’s intervention, he stopped using diapers, he can eat on his own, he started socializing with other children and people (he actually initiates it now), he can say bye bye, I want water, he stopped licking things etc. He is back in a regular school, he has spent a term. He won the best improved student in his class. He participated in the end of session activities. He has started picking a lot of words. I will like to use this medium to encourage all the parents and those that know people with children with special needs not to give up on them. We all have a purpose why we were created by God. Keep praying because it’s only Him that can heal and perfect all that concerns them. Do your part, enroll them in therapy school it helps them a lot, don’t keep them at home, take them out, treat them like any other children, show them love – they need a lot of it, it encourage them, create time for them, be involved in their day to day activities. I know it’s not easy as a parent, I have gone through it and am still going through it, don’t be discouraged.

A PARENT’S INTERVIEW ON AUTISM

Daniel Okoli is a handsome, enterprising and loveable child, whose ability to paint and draw is unique and eye-catching. His brilliant qualities were once threatened by a neurodevelopmental disorder known as Autism. Persons living with Autism are not able to learn simple things like communication, socializing and every day normal things. In a chat with Patrick Special and Languages Centre, Daniel’s mum, Mrs. Olufunke Okoli, a Civil Servant with the Lagos State Government shares her experience. Q: How did you detect Autism in your child? I didn’t actually know anything about Autism until 2008 when I visited a friend with my child, because while he was growing up his father and I assumed he had a delay in talking and was going to speak as time went by.  Though, he exhibited some characters, we assumed that they could be attributed to that of a growing child. Until my friend, who had an in depth knowledge of the disorder, suggested that he is on the spectrum, insinuating that he probably had traces of Autism. That was the first time ever that I heard of Autism. We went to the hospital and the Doctors assessed him before we were subsequently referred to Patrick Speech and Language Centre. Since I brought him here, I have learnt that Autism is a challenge that children are born with because there is really no known cause for it yet. A  It’s a challenge that needs proper scrutiny because you cannot detect until the child is old enough to start school and he can’t talk, interact, he is violent and several other traits he will exhibit. A  In my case that was how I got to know about what Autism was. Q: Are you confident that Daniel can pursue a professional career? Yes, very well.  I thank God for Patrick.  If not for their help I never thought he could pursue a career in life, because his nature of challenge was different, apart from being Autistic he was also hyperactive and sometimes aggressive.  Some children exhibit self injurious behaviours and destroy things in their environment. Though, he was not destructive he was violent, because he could not speak, he tried to express himself through aggression. He threw things; beat his peers, shout, scream and all that was his own way of expression.  When he got here is strength was redirected.  Daniel now speaks, plays and relates with everyone normally.  He has started a regular school and he’s doing very fine.  I don’t really know what they do at Patrick, but they sure have the professional edge to help kids with Autism and give them a future. Q:  How do you suggest that Information level on Autism can be improved upon? Actually, the information level on Autism is very poor and below par.  For example, where I reside, I have seen children exhibiting traits of Autism and because of insufficient information their parents cannot tell what is really wrong with the child, others lack the fund required to help their children.  From my experience, I can tell if a child has Autism but that cannot be adequate information.  There’s need for government involvement in Autism.  Government channel funds into helping children who are blind, deaf and dumb. They also help children with other disabilities; I don’t think Autism is any different. Q:  Do you think the Doctors should take blame for their inability to detect Autism early, after these children are taken for numerous tests? It’s not really the doctors’ fault.  I don’t think it’s easy for medical practitioners to detect.  They always try their best but it’s not easy.  There are no definite symptoms for Autism, if they could detect easily, I’m sure they would have at birth.  Children with Autism do not have medical problems, like the common sickness and disease we know.  My child was taken to the hospital several times and the doctors posited that perhaps he had a hearing problem or it was just tongue-tie.  I don’t know if all doctors are enlightened about Autism but I don’t think it’s their fault.  You know this has to do with the sensory organs disorder the doctors can only continue to educate themselves on issues like Autism. Q:  How have you been able to cope with a child that has Autism, physically, emotionally, financially and other facets of life? It was not easy at all.  I am a working mother, my husband works, I have two other children and no housemaid, but I decided I was going to face the task ahead of me courageously.  When we started we had to feed him a diet, though expensive, the food hardly had a taste.  For instance, my son likes sugar but had none of it because it would negate his diet and the whole family had to eat what he ate, it was really difficult especially for his sisters, who had to adjust to his diets. Q:  It seems like showing love and affection is the therapy children with Autism need? That is just it; you need to show a lot of love.  You must try to relate with their situation and understand them; because of their condition they are sometimes favourites of their parents their state of helplessness attracts a lot of emotional attachment.  While he was at Patrick, I was told not to show any kind of preference to him, he must be treated like the other kids.  It tried to treat him like the others, I spank him when he did anything wrong, I engaged him in domestic chores even though he gets it  wrong I give him the impression he’s done well, just like the other kids. Q:  What advise do you have for parents whose kids have Autism? They must show love to their children.  They must understand their child and not treat them differently.  They must send their children to centre like Patrick, irrespective of the cost because when I brought Daniel here I didn’t have the money but I had to do it.  Parents must

A Short Happy Story About Adeola

A year ago, 16-year-old Adeola was trapped in her own little world, and it wasn’t a pretty place. Nobody understood why she couldn’t seem to communicate like other children; she couldn’t talk, rarely made eye contact with people and had massive tantrums if she didn’t get her own way. Her reality consisted of people screaming at her to behave and stop what she was doing. Sometimes she was beaten. Other times, she was locked in the house when her family went out because they didn’t want to be seen with her. Adeola has a severe form of autism, a disorder misunderstood by many in Nigeria. Adeola was admitted into Patrick speech and languages centre early January 2013. She came to the centre with good receptive skills but her expressive language skill was our concern. She seldom uses her words when she came. She exhibited signs of severe autism. She throws tantrum when she is not allowed to have her way and can destroy anything along her path. She is constantly going back and forth for the toilet. She did not relate with anybody. Her level of cognitive skill was low. These are some of the challenges Adeola was facing as at the time she was admitted at Patricks. She was then placed on speech therapy, her cognitive and social skill was also worked upon and she was able to improve in the following areas. Language and communication Adeola’s receptive language skill changed from fair to good and her expressive language skills also changed. She can imitate words and can sing rhymes and songs. She can fill in words in any rhyme and song. Her level of imitation increased and she makes a lot of effort in the use of words. She can make requests such as wee-wee and express unwanted desires like ‘no’, ‘leave me alone’. One of the greatest achievements was her ability to recite National Anthem. Gross and Fine Motor Adeola’s fine and gross motor skill also changed from fair to good during her period at Patricks. Beading, painting, scribbling, colouring, stacking was no longer a challenge. She can fix puzzles and can write, copy from board. She can turn pages of book and can also draw pre-pattern objects. Cognitive Skill Adeola’s cognitive skill also changed. She did not find it too difficult to identify objects. Her level of attention increased from fair to good and she became interested in simple academics and use of letter sounds to jump start her ability to read. Self Help Skill Adeola’s self help skill remarkably changed. She can now dress herself up and clean up herself after each meal. Behaviour Her level of tantrum also reduced tremendously. She behaves better in the class even in the public. Her social interaction also increased. Although she might not be able to initiate interaction but she joins other when engaged in turn taking activities. This little girl with the dark eyes is no longer a lost soul in a world where nobody understands her.

Ways You Can Help Your Non-verbal Child Speak

1. Encourage play and social interaction Children learn through play, and that includes learning language. Interactive play provides enjoyable opportunities for you and your child to communicate. Try a variety of games to find those your child enjoys. Also try playful activities that promote social interaction. Examples include singing, reciting nursery rhymes and gentle roughhousing. During your interactions, position yourself in front of your child and close to eye level, so it’s easier for your child to see and hear you. 2. Imitate your child Mimicking your child’s sounds and play behavior will encourage more vocalizing and interaction. It also encourages your child to copy you and take turns. Make sure you imitate how your child is playing, so long as it’s a positive behavior. For example, when your child rolls a car, you roll a car. If he or she crashes the car, you crash yours too. But don’t imitate throwing the car! 3. Focus on nonverbal communication Gestures and eye contact can build a foundation for language. Encourage your child by modeling and responding to these behaviors. Exaggerate your gestures. Use both your body and your voice when communicating, for example, by extending our hand to point when you say ‘look’ and nodding your head when you say ‘yes’. Use gestures that are easy for our child to imitate. Examples include clapping, opening hands, reaching out arms, etc. Respond to your child’s gestures. When she looks at or point to a toy, hand it to her or take the cue for you to play with it. Similarly point to a toy you want before picking it up. 4. Leave space for your child to talk It is natural to feel the urge to fill in language when a child does not immediately respond. But it is so important to give your child lots of opportunities to communicate, even if he is not talking. When you ask a question or see that your child wants something, pause for several seconds while looking at him expectantly. Watch for any sound or body movement and respond promptly. The promptness of your response helps your child feel the power of communication. 5. Simplify your language Doing so helps your child follow what you are saying. It also makes it easier for her to imitate your speech. If your child is nonverbal, try speaking mostly in single words. (If she is playing with a ball, you say ‘ball’ or ‘roll’.) If your child is speaking single words, up the ante. Speak in short phrases, such as ‘roll ball’ or ‘throw ball. Keep following this one-up rule: Generally use phrases with one more word than your child is using. 6. Follow your child’s interests Rather than interrupting your child’s focus, follow along with words. Using the one-up rule, narrate what your child is doing. If he’s playing with a shape sorter, you might say the word ‘in’ when he puts a shape its slot. You might say ‘shape’ when he holds up the shape and ‘dump shapes’ when he dumps them out to start over. By talking about what engages your child, you’ll help him learn the associated vocabulary. 7. Consider assistive devices and visual supports Assistive technologies and visual supports can do more than the place of speech. They can foster its development. Examples include devices and apps with pictures that your child touches to produce words. On a simpler level, visual supports can include pictures and groups of pictures that your child can use to indicate requests and thoughts. Your child’s therapists are uniquely qualified to help you select and use these and other strategies for encouraging language development. Tell the therapist about your successes as well as any difficulties you are having. By working with your child’s intervention team, you can help provide the support your child needs to find his or her unique ‘voice’

Asperger Syndrome

Asperger syndrome is a form of autism, a condition that affects the way a person communicates and relates to others. A number of traits of autism are common to Asperger syndrome including: Difficulty in communicating Difficulty in social relationships A lack of social imagination and creative play However, people with Asperger Syndrome usually have fewer problems with language than those with autism, often speaking fluently, though their words can sometimes sound formal or stilted. People with Asperger Syndrome do not usually have the accompanying learning disabilities associated with autism. In fact, people with Asperger Syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. Because of this many children with Asperger Syndrome enter mainstream school and, with the right support and encouragement, can make good progress and go on to further education and employment.

Autism: What is It?

Because an autistic child looks ‘normal’ others assume they are naughty or the parents are not controlling the child. Strangers frequently comment on this ‘failing’ Autism is a developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people around them. Children and adults with autism have difficulties with everyday social interaction. Their ability to develop friendship is generally limited as their capacity to understand other people’s emotional expression. Reality to an autistic person is a confusing, interacting mass of events, people, places, sounds and sights. There seems to be no clear boundaries, order or meaning to anything. A large part of their life is spent trying to workout the pattern behind everything. The exact cause or causes of autism is/are still not known but research shows that genetic factors are important. It is also evident from research that autism may be associated with a variety of conditions affecting brain development which occur before, during or very soon after birth. Specialist education and structured support can really make a difference to a person with autism, helping them to maximise skills and achieve full potential in adulthood.

Understanding Your Child’s Communication

So many times we are worried about the behavior displayed by children living with Autism, always have it in mind that there will not be an action without a cause. When thinking about a particular behavioral difficulty, it is important to ask the question,’What is the person trying to tell me by their behavior?’ and to think about the function that the behavior has for the person as an individual. Identifying this aspect of a particular behavior involves looking at what the person gains or avoids from engaging in that behavior. For an individual with ASD, it is important to think about the triad of impairments and how they may be contributing to the behavior. Bear the following questions in mind when thinking about the function of a particular behavior. Is the person experiencing any pain, illness or physical discomfort, such as toothache, earache, digestion problems, allergies or seizures? How does the person communicate their needs, wants, and feelings? Could the behaviour be a way of compensating for communication difficulties? Have there been any recent changes in the individual’s life, for example, a new teacher, moving house, disruption to the usual routine? Are the person’s obsessions, special interests or repetitive behaviour contributing to the behavioural difficulties Is the person experiencing any sensory issues that may be affecting their behaviour? Is the behaviour related to problems with social understanding? Sometimes a particular behaviour can have more than one function. Trying to communicate a want or need can come out as an attempt to gain attention of some sort or to bring about a particular outcome as a result of others’ reactions and the individual’s subsequent learning.

Let’s Teach You About Autism

What is Autism? Autism is a complex developmental dysfunction of the central nervous system that affects how an individual communicates, interacts socially and behaves. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support Rate: Autism is currently the second fastest growing global disorder. Growing at an annual rate of 10-17%. This growth represents a 600% increase in 20 years.

Taking Care of Autistic Children Makes My Day

Eniola Lahanmi had her first degree in Psychology from Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, United state. She is currently a speech and language therapist in Patrick Speech and Language centre, Ikeja Lagos. After her degree, she went to Boston and took a course in Applied Behaviour Analysis which was a kind of intervention and treatment for children with autism. This means that I’m qualified for what I’m doing presently. To be candid, my intention is to study Medicine in the United States, and for you to do that, you must have to do a first degree in pre-medicine. So, I chose psychology with a clinical track as my pre-medicine. And in my school, you have to do one year work experience and so I did mine at the centre for children with Autism and I found it really interesting’ she recalled. What really fascinates her about her job? “Well, I found the whole condition of autism quite intriguing because coming from Nigeria, it is not something I was familiar with. It is a sort of disorder for children. Sometimes when you look at them, nothing seems to be wrong with them physically but all the same there is something that is making them not to act the way they should. I found that fascinating because I have always been fascinated by the way the brain works and I have researched about brain. So, I see that as an interesting condition. “When I saw that it’s not a write-off, that there is actually something that can be done to elleviate their condition in terms of improving their behaviour and bringing out their potentials. I said okay this is like medicine and it’s even more interesting. Lahanmi unveils her experience so far as a speech and language therapist in Patrick Speech and Languages Centre, Ikeja. At first, I came back to Nigeria in 2010 having worked in autism centre in the U.S. When I came here, I noticed that there are lots of challenges. First and foremost, we don’t have enough professionals and what this means is that a lot of children don’t get picked up quite early. As opposed to other developed nations, where they have health check that they do and once they have symptoms of that, they are picked by professionals and they can start to get help early. But here, it is not like that. Here people see autism as a spiritual problem, a mental disorder where there is no hope. But I thank God that a lot of people now have started having awareness. Many centres are being opened up here and there to let people know more about autism and that they are ready to render help. But another major lapse is that because of our society people with such children are hidden from help. The country has over 150 million people, meaning that there are so many people with such condition but its either they don’t know there are centres for such children or they tend to live far away from the centre. And when they are aware of such centres, most often they can’t afford it, she explained. Another challenge is that it is not a field that people tend to go into nowadays. The core doctors go into general medicine and all of that. So, we don’t have enough professionals, which is of course a challenge. But anyway, it’s quite exciting that I am in the forefront of people that help autistic children and getting things done, she stated. But as a married woman, has she ever feared that her own kids might be like the children she is taking care of? A lot of people would say ‘oh this work you are doing, be careful’. But that doesn’t get me scared. I have always had a sort of practical mind. I am a Christian, a person who doesn’t look at things from spiritual perspectives. It’s just like saying that someone who is working in a clinic or in a normal hospital that is treating malaria patients would have malaria or that her kids would have malaria. People think autism is something you can catch or the devil can give you but it is not like that, she said. What thrills her most about her job is seeing positive difference or tremendous change in an autistic child makes my day. I mean a child who couldn’t look at you before or answer you when you call her now begins to answer and then getting the parents to appreciate that change, thrills me a lot,  she emphasized. “It doesn’t upset me or make me annoyed but we are all human and there are some things we all find disgusting. A lot of children exhibit different behaviours, we have some who would excrete and they want to smear it on you. That is disgusting. We are all human beings and we find that disgusting but at the same time, what makes it different is that you know that the child does not deliberately want to disgust you. I look at such a child or children as people that need help’, Lahanmi said.

Children with Autism Can Be Helped

‘Is your child down with autism? Don’t ignore him or her, there is a way out. No matter how old such a child is, bring him to my centre. All that he needs is help and he can be okay.’ ‘Don’t think he will outgrow autism on his own without help. I heard such advice when my own child was diagnosed with autism, I refused to ignore him until he was okay’ – Dotun Akande , said recently in an interview. Akande is the proprietress of Patrick speech and languages centre and pure souls learning foundation in the serene area of the ikeja GRA in Lagos. In her office is a plasma television adorning the wall beside her table where she views the whole premises of the centre, starting from the gate to the reception, classrooms, the staircase, kitchen, etc. she sits and oversees what goes on in all the classrooms. Akande spoke about the centre with gusto. “We have been around for the past nine years and we work with children with autism and related developmental disabilities. Pure soul learning foundation is developed out of the fact that there are so many families that cannot pay for the service at the centre. so, through Pure soul learning Foundation, we have been able to give free services to families of autistic children in Nigeria”, she stressed. Does her centre give scholarship to autistic children who can’t afford it? “Yes, we treat them free of charge. We look for opportunities where We can find funding to help families, if we cannot raise funds, we ask those that have helped us in the past to kind of give us materials that can help in bringing up these children. So it may not be necessarily monetary funds. It may be materials fund and sometimes human funds. Pure souls foundation has also been at the forefront of autism awareness. We have released three movies to educate people on what autism is all about. The three movies are titled ‘Emere‘, ‘The Maid‘ and ‘Silver Lining‘. What we do is that we use volunteer actors. We use one known actor for it, For Silver Lining, we used Monalisa Chinda, for The Maid and for Emere we used Femi Bernard. Those are some of the things we have done recently. Through those movies, people are educated about the signs of autism. For instance ‘Silver Lining‘ is a long movie that lets parents know the signs of autism. ‘Emere‘ is a spiritual aspect of it that talks about the fact that when you find a child with autism, the first place to go is either to the church for deliverance. That was shown in Emere, where a lady took her autistic child from one church to the other and from one oracle to the other for cure. But eventually she was helped by a special centre where the child’s talent was brought up,  she said. But can’t an autistic child outgrow it on his own? “There is nothing like that. You have to work at it. Whatever challenge that the child is facing at every point in time, you must try as much as possible to work on it. I remember when we first started in 2006.we were the first centre to open specifically for autism. There were other centres all over the place but we chose to concentrate on children with autism. I was passionate about it. My son was diagnosed with it and we worked with him. I heard from people who said just leave him, don’t worry, pray about it and he would be okay. I heard all that but I didn’t listen to them. I ran around, got help from everywhere I could. I did music therapy for him, self help skill by myself, after-school programme in a school and a whole lot for him until he was okay. When I realised that it was possible to help other children with a similar challenge, I decided to open this centre she explained Akande first went for training. “Yes you cannot do this without being trained first. When I realized I wanted to go into it fully. I had to be trained at the National Autistic Society in the UK and they took me through a programme that would help me start. They put me through picture exchange programme, that is coaching me on how to teach them by using pictures. They taught me how to use sign language to communicate with them because there are many ways I can talk to them without using words. I can communicate with my eyes, depending on what I’m trying to say” she said. To mothers with autistic children or who have babies with certain disabilities, she has some words. Mothers that have children with certain disabilities they don’t understand should first visit their pediatricians. If you are told to carry your child and go home, you should insist if you notice there is something wrong with him. Don’t go home and forget about it. You should keep going back, because there is what we call motherly instinct that tells you something is wrong with your child, even when you are told that all is well, do not give up on that child. There was an autistic person they brought here, for instance, when my staff saw him, they thought we won’t be able to accept him because he is 35 years old. When he came, I ran after his mother and asked her for an idea of what the chap had been through. She told me and I accepted him, promising to do my best. And he has started improving. Before, he couldn’t even put two piece puzzles together but now he can do it. When he is through, he gets up and helps other children. He didn’t go to school because he doesn’t have speech but he is catching up. We are teaching him now how to play the piano, carpentry and hand skills because we

7 Strategies to Encourage Language Development in Autistic Children

Progress in the management of children with autism starts with parents accepting them with their challenges. Here,Bidemi Yinusa, head of school Patrick Speech and Languages Centre Ikeja Lagos shared with Uche Akolesa (HALLMARK news paper) &seven top strategies for promoting languages development in non-verbal children and adolescents with autism 1. Encourage play and social interaction. Children learn through play and that includes learning language. Interactive play provides enjoyable opportunities for you and your child to communicate. Try a variety of games to find those your child enjoys. Also try playful activities that promote social interaction. Examples include singing, reciting nursery rhymes and gentle roughhousing. During your interactions, position yourself in front of your child and close to eye level, so it’s easier for your child to see and hear you. 2. Imitate your child. Mimicking your child’s sounds and play behaviors will encourage more vocalizing and interaction. It also encourages your child to copy you and take turns. Make sure you imitate how your child is playing, so long as it’s a positive behavior. For example, when your child rolls a car, you roll a car. If he or she crashes the car, you crash yours too. But don’t imitate throwing the car! 3. Focus on nonverbal communication. Gestures and eye contact can build a foundation for language. Encourage your child by modeling and responding these behaviors. Exaggerate your gestures. Use both your body and your voice when communicating, for example, by extending your hand to point when you say “look” and nodding your head when you say “yes”. Use gestures that are easy for your child to imitate. Examples include clapping, opening hands, reaching out arms, etc. Respond to your child’s gestures: When she looks at or points to a toy, hand it to her or take the cue for you to play with it. Similarly, point to a toy you want before picking it up. 4. Leave space  for your child to talk. It’s natural to feel the urge to fill in language when a child doesn’t immediately respond. But it’s so important to give your child lots of opportunities to communicate, even if he isn’t talking. When you ask a question or see that your child wants something, pause for several seconds while looking at him expectantly. Watch for any sound or body movement and respond promptly. The promptness of your response helps your child feel the power of communication. 5. Simplify your language. Doing so helps your child follow what you are saying. It also makes it easier for her to imitate your speech. If your child is nonverbal, try speaking mostly in single words. (If she is playing with a ball, you say ‘ball’ or ‘roll’.) If your child is speaking single words, up the ante. Speak in short phrases, such as ‘roll ball’ or ‘throw ball. Keep following this one-up rule: Generally use phrases with one more word than your child is using. 6. Follow your child’s interests:  Rather than interrupting your child’s focus, follow along with words. Using the one-up rule, narrate what your child is doing. If he’s playing with a shape sorter, you might say the word ‘in’ when he puts a shape its slot. You might say ‘shape’ when he holds up the shape and ‘dump shapes’ when he dumps them out to start over. By talking about what engages your child, you’ll help him learn the associated vocabulary. 7. Consider assistive devices and visual supports. Assistive technologies and visual supports can do more than take the place of speech. They can foster its development. Examples include devices and applications with pictures that your child touches to produce words. On a simpler level, visual supports can include pictures and groups of pictures that your child can use to indicate requests and thoughts.