A medical officer with the Integrated Diagnostic Centre, a subsidiary of New Crystal hospital, Dr Carl Engmann is calling on government and other stakeholders to increase autism education in the country.
He made the call on the occasion of the World Autism Awareness Day which is observed worldwide, each year, on the 2nd of April.
Autism, a lifelong developmental disability manifests itself during the first three years of life. The rate of autism in all regions of the world is high and it has a tremendous impact on children, their families, communities and societies.
Dr Engmann is therefore of the view that stigmatization towards people living with the condition should be reduced, if not completely eliminated. “People still attribute the illness to spirits and other mysterious causes”, he noted.
He stated further that some people believe that autistic children are evil spirits in human form, saying that society therefore looks down on them and thus parents are compelled to hide such kids from public attention. He advocated intensive public education to sensitize people about stigmatization whilst at the same time ensuring that affected families can access the right support.
Dr. Engmann also pointed out that the inadequacy of special institutions to take care of the needs of people living with autism also prevents them from living to their fullest potential. He wants government and other stakeholders to as a matter of urgency takes steps to address this challenge.
Touching on some of the early signs to look out for, Dr Engmann said if a child does not make eye contact for instance when being fed, does not smile when smiled at, does not follow objects visually, does not respond to his or her name or to the sound of a familiar voices, among others, parents must seek medical advice.
Although the condition cannot be treated, he believes that seeking medical advice early will ensure that it is properly managed. He urged parents not to treat their autistic children with disdain. He said they should rather be given all available opportunities to ensure their growth and development.