Many in Nigeria relegate those with autism to the outskirts of society, labelling them as being possessed or evil. There is an immense amount of ignorance towards the disorder, and in typical Nigerian form when one does not understand something, they don’t try and educate themselves, turn a blind eye and act like it doesn’t exist. Better yet, call it a white man’s problem and continue to fail the thousands of children who simply need help.
SOme of the misconceptions that Nigerians typically struggle with is the idea that the child has low intellectual capabilities, people can grow out of autism or that autism is caused by bad parenting. Yes, a ‘curse’ for your parenting skills they say. This abundance of misinformation takes place as there is a lack of research, statistics and awareness available regarding the disorder.
Autism is understood as a lifelong condition that creates “a disorder of the developing brain.” This is characterised by complex behaviour in both social and brain-based skills, as the brains early development of social and communication skills are stunted.
In addition, there are different types of autism spectrum disorders, this includes autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder. Children in Nigeria with autism are often misdiagnosed, or end up not being diagnosed altogether. In the worse cases, they will be hidden at home, killed or end up being on the streets. These are unnecessary actions as those with autism can be treated and taken care of.
Recently there was a situation in Indiana- oh how we love the southern American states- where a teacher gave a child an award for being the most annoying student in her class. She clearly didn’t think that all the way through as the child has actually been diagnosed with autism.
This is a display of the lack of sensitivity towards those with disabilities as a teacher felt emboldened to characterize the symptoms of his disorder as ‘annoying’. As that takes place in the west, some of us in Nigeria still battle the question of whether autism is contagious, clearly, there is a lot of work to be done all around.
It is imperative for us to take a stand and do better with those who struggle with autism. We cannot continue to discriminate against those who are different, but instead embrace them and enable them to succeed wholeheartedly.
Also, check out the different types of people you’ll meet at the ATM.