Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the communication, social interaction and behavior of an individual.
It is characterized by repetitive behaviors, communication difficulties and problems with social interaction. It is a lifelong disorder. Autistic children prefer being alone and not mingle with other children; this is as a result of how their brain functions.
World Autism Awareness Day, observed April 2 aims to increase awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is an opportunity to raise a collective voice in support of people diagnosed with Autism.
The increased awareness will help bring down the social stigma that segregates autistic people from the rest of the world.
The theme of this year is “TRANSFORMING THE NARRATIVE: CONTRIBUTIONS AT HOME, AT WORK, IN THE ARTS AND IN POLICY MAKING”.
This is to seek for the co-operation and support of everyone- at home, at work, in the arts towards Autistic people as well as considering them while making policies like educational and healthcare policies.
Dr. Nneka Gabriel-Job, a Paediatric Consultant specialising in Neurology in the Paediatric Department of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, opined that Autism Spectrum Disorder affects children of all ages but can be easily managed with early intervention. She stated that Autistic people may have developmental regression, excessive stimuli, abnormal reaction to environmental stimuli, self injurious behavior, lack eye contact while having conversations amongst others.
Children living with Autism do not like noise and so would rather stay in a secluded area where they are out of reach of people around.
“There is no known cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder but some of the risk factor include but not limited to the following: use of some drugs during pregnancy, infection in pregnancy, infection at birth etc.”
She noted that people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder are sometimes abused and also suffer bullying, stigmatization etc; she therefore advised members of the public to stop the ill treatment meted on people living with Autism.
She strongly advised parents to get involved in the lives of their children living with the disorder. This way they will be able to identify the disorder early enough and start an early intervention process of family counseling, getting support groups which comprise the educational psychologists, nutritionists, Ear, Nose and Throat doctors, etc.
Dr. Job stressed on the fact that Autism is a life long disorder and can only be managed as children grow.
The University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital is a foremost hospital in the Niger Delta region that tackles a wide varieties of health challenges and has professionals that handle these challenges; Autism Spectrum Disorder is one of those ailments the hospital manages excellently.