The two-day conference of GT Bank Orange Ribbon initiative, Autism Programme-Bridging GAPS and Transforming Lives held at MUSON CENTER on 30th of June and 1st July 2015. “The best therapy for any human is friendship, love and care”- Cathy Echeozo, Deputy Managing Director, GTBank.
The orange Ribbon initiative is an advocacy programme designed to support children with developmental disabilities, most especially the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) .It seeks to ensure that these children are not stigmatized and that they receive the required support from Parents, Teachers, Friends and government and the society.
The 2015 conference gave Opportunities to parents, teachers and Medical personnel to learn and discuss important areas in management of Autism such as Nutrition, Social Support, Assessment and psychology, Modification, Education and one on one with the Speakers and consultants as well as well as the 7-days child assessment services from 2nd-10th July 2015 at the Sickle-Cell Center, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba.
Statistics shows that that over 1.2million Nigerians are with ASD, 1 to 68 infant; children and Adults in Nigeria are diagnosed with forms of Autism, Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism, is one of the fastest growing disorders in the world. This data shows we have a big burden to bare and that is why we all must do whatever it takes by joining hands together to help the Needy especially ASD children and adults.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the conference, Mr. Segun Agbaje, Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank plc. Stated “ The Annual Autism Conference is probably the most important thing that GTBank do.
At the conference, speakers and consultants furnished the audience with valuable facts about Autism. Although there is no single solution or remedy to treat ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and other developmental disabilities, early diagnosis and intervention is critical to a child development.
Children with Autism are often confused about how to behave, imitating the actions of an autistic child is a way to get the child to communicate. These children are mostly attracted to water, shinning objects or high places. These shows that there is need for raft attention so as to understand their ways of life at all times because some of them are hypersensitive and hyposensitive.
Even though autistic children are special beings and they need more concentration to their brain, Digestive System and detoxification system however, protein and vitamin C can do the magic in boosting their immune system.
Corroborating the specialty of Autistic child, Dr Ericka Daniels, Director of Occupational Therapy for Infuse Strategy Group, LLC says “ Autistic children are unique. Seeing one autistic child doesn’t mean you have seen them all.
Thought provoking questions and wrong impressions from parents, teachers and medical personnel were answered and their curiosities were quenched with answers to cases like: If Autism was originally believed to be a form of a schizophrenia brought by a traumatic experience or bad parenting.
In some parts of sub-Sahara Africa, children with autism are normally seen as witches, supernatural, ancestral spirits, wizards and are often victimized, and poisoned in an attempt to deliver their soul from the snare of the devil.
Dr Adeola Fayemi, the Manager of Diversity and Inclusion for Auburn University in Alabama, USA said, “Roughly 49% of ASD children attempt to elope from a safe environment. More than 1/3 of the Autistic children who wandered rarely communicate their names, addresses and phone numbers because of the ailment. Children with ASD are 8 times more likely to elope between the ages of 7-10 than their typically developed siblings”.
A parent in attendance, Mrs Isokpe expressed her ordeal “My daughter, Victoria is now 10 years old. She grew up like a normal child but I discovered her ailment when she was 2 years. At a point she was not talking so we took her to LUTH for medical help. A test was carried out on her at Military hospital, Yaba and she was diagnosed with Bilateral Auditory Neuropath (Brain Not correlating with the Air). Several medical specialists were recommended but all to no avail because she was not sleeping at Night, which got me discouraged. As a mother I had to make a choice to withdraw her from regular school and also from my job so I can take care of my lovely Victoria.”
She added, “I started doing business like catering and decoration, Victoria is now in a special to special school but considering the fact that Special school is a progressive thing it involves a lot of Money.
“This is my 3rd consecutive year I will be attending this conference. Coming to this conference organized by GTBank and partners, we have really been encouraged to get over depression, not to be discouraged nor loose hope. As an ASD mother, seeing your child helpless is so disheartening as there is nothing that can be done about it but at this conference, GTBank had really empowered me, enlightened me taught different techniques on how to manage Victoria. For Example at the first edition, we were thought how to engage them with Toys, I bought it for her and it works because prior to that she could not hear nor differentiate sounds but now am happy she listen to music, make attempt to open the door for me whenever I am back and give me signs whenever she is hungry.
“I really appreciate the organizers and I pray God continues to increase their efforts so that other ASD families can benefit like my family.”
Lastly, Mrs Isokpe advised mothers who keep their children indoors because of shame or stigmatization to desist from such act as it does harm more than good.
In as much as treatment of Autism can be very complicated and expensive, learning new techniques and other truths however, can help families and the communities cope with the emotional and physical challenges for ASD children to leave normal lives.
Every child deserves to live, be loved and understood. Sensitization and awareness is not a one-man business but seeks to achieve a common goal. Give hope where there is hopelessness, reduce stigma associated with ASD and related disorders and help fast track in government policies that will suit these special children and adults in Nigeria knowing fully well the country is on the increasing rate of this global menace.
The Orange Ribbon Initiative is a CSR initiative by Guaranty Trust Bank that serves as an advocacy program designed to support children with developmental disabilities, most especially the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) .It seeks to ensure that these children are not stigmatized and receive the required support from parents, teachers, friends and government and the society at large.