How has the need to educate, inculcate social norms as well as develop innate abilities in the lives of children living with autism thrived in modern society? Nanna Selkur and Uche Uduma write.
‘Every child has a right to education; no child should live in isolation due to one form of disability or the other’. These are the words of a therapist, Mr Dominic Akpan, during his visit to Zamarr Institute, school for children with Autism, Abuja.
Autism, according to the National Autistic Society is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.
According to experts, in diagnosing Autisms, persons with the anomaly may display some attributes when it comes to learning. Some of them may be very good at doing specific task, for instance, they may be very good at mathematics, art or music. They can also be good at learning how to do something when they see someone doing it. They may be good at concentrating on one activity.
Akpan who is a therapist, disclosed that one of the core goals of educating children with autism is to teach them how to conform to their surroundings and develop the God given talent in them.
According to him, although their learning process does not follow the regular pattern of a normal person who studies and sits for exams, when they are given the right ground to acquire knowledge and skills, like Bill Gates who suffered from a mild form of autism at a younger age, they can still make impact in the society.
In today’s society, even with the emphasis on education for all, research has shown that there are only a few private organisations that run schools for children with autism.
On a visit to one of the institutions, it was revealed that the first step towards bringing the individual to conformity and to develop special ability, starts with a week of observing the individual to know what attracts the individual.
Akpan explains “When an individual is brought here, we expose and observe them to all forms of activities. When we have observed that they find certain aspects more interesting than others, we concentrate in that area and develop the person in that area.”
A typical day at the institute is occupied with subjects such as Applied Behaviour Analysis speech therapy, Relationship Development Intervention, Occupational therapy and Floor Time therapy among others.
One of the teachers at the school, who prefers anonymity, said these activities are geared towards offering treatment and education to the individuals. The teacher explained that when this is achieved, they become sound both in character and in learning which are prerequisite to fit into the society.
Informed research has shown that autism affects one out of every 110 children. Experts advise parents to take immediate actions by taking their child for diagnosis when the child does not responds to social smiles, is having communication difficulties, the child spin objects or self and is sensitive to smell, sound and texture.
The president of National Society for Autism Nigeria Khadeejah Katagum, advocates for early detection of signs and symptoms in a child.
Experts say, although at the moment only private individuals run these sort of special need education at the moment, there is need for government to come into the scene as the cost of educating these person with special need triple the amount spend on educating children the normal persons.
Currently, the Zamarr Institute has the facility to cater for only less than 20 students, with a projection to cater for more than a hundred students if its building project is completed.
In his opinion, the therapist, said there is an urgent need for government to put in place laws and other modalities towards educating children with autism and other deformities, the task to sponsor the child’s education by their parent is an extraordinary tasks which can reduce the parent to penury, these has resulted to a lot of these children being neglected at home without receiving education to make them independent in the years ahead.
In his word “these children need just some form of modification, yet the public have label them wrongly. While those whose parents have attempted to educate them, realised that they gulp a lot of money, government need to look at their direction, the senate and other stakeholders need to come to the scene, the private sector cannot do it alone, there are a lot of children with these special need that if paid attention to will contribute immensely to today’s modern day society in one way or the other. These will also give room for their parents to concentrate and train other children.”