A charity event launched last Saturday at Tottenham’s Bernie Grants Art Centre to highlight Autism awareness within the African community brought together personal and professional experiences of people living and caring for those with the condition.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects communication, social interaction and how people make sense of the world around them.
A 19-year-old student who was raised alongside her autistic twin brother, and an autistic mother-of-four caring for two sons with the condition, shared their inspirational testimonials to an audience of over 200 people.
Organised by the Ghanaian charity organisation, GUBA Foundation, the inaugural event included advice on accessing finance, and harnessing therapeutic resources and respite care.
Experts were on hand to discuss child and adolescent psychological behavior. Attendees gained unique insight into why autistic children have physical and emotional outburst thanks to a short film from American teenager Carly who has learnt to communicate to her parents using her computer.
There was video footage of GUBA Foundation’s founder and CEO Dentaa on her recent visit to an Autistic Centre in Ghana’s capital Accra, and attendees learnt more about a partnership between east London-based Whitefield Schools and Centre and a school for children with special needs in Obuasi, in the Ashanti region of Ghana.
Core to the event was the need for the Black community to dispel the often negative views and social stigma associated with Autism, which can deter parents from seeking treatment.
One mother who had refused professional and financial support, appealed to parents to accept the condition and move forward. Another urged parents to focus on the many positives that are often associated with Autism such as their ability to be truthful, creative and have a retentive memory.
But the star of the event had to be Joshua, who despite only being eight years old has performed numerous computer-simulated surgical operations and has two Oxford University course certificates under his belt. The Autistic youngster from Tottenham, who wants to be a surgeon when he is older, treated parents to a power point presentation on the workings of the human body.
Although unable to attend the event, Tottenham MP David Lammy endorsed the charity’s hard work and issued a statement, saying: “I wholeheartedly support the work that is being done to ensure that families are able to look to their community for support when tackling the everyday challenges of dealing with Autism. Through engagement with your community, parents and families can meet the needs of their loved ones and thrive as individuals and active community members.”
Speaking after the event, GUBA Foundation’s Dentaa said: “Having Autism is not the end of the world but just the beginning and the inspirational testimonials from our speakers last Saturday are living proof of that.
“Through GUBA Foundation, we [want] create the channels to help parents talk openly about their daily challenges, offer support and lobby to improve the lives of all those affected by Autism both in the UK and Ghana.”
Autism affects one in 100 people in the UK’s 63 million population, and over 100,000 people living with the condition come from black or ethnic minority communities, according to the National Autistic Society.
The event was sponsored by care home provider BlueBird Care in Haringey and Barking and Dagenham, and Pavilion, a therapeutics centre for people with autism in Haringey. Pavilion is part of Connifers Care. The event was supported by Black hair specialists Paks.
If you have been touched by Autism and would like to learn more: Twitter @gubafoundation, or www.facebook.com/pages/GUBA-Foundation