Authorities call for Autism awareness

√Stigma, a big woe among autistic people

Commonwealth Disable People Forum-CDPF has emphasized that there is need to advocate to communities about the stigma and discrimination towards persons with autism, challenges escalated by lack of awareness in African countries.

Speaking in an interview, Dr. Emile Gouws
Representing Underrepresented Groups on the CDPF has described the lack of awareness as a major setback for those affected by the condition.

She said society needs to understand that autism is a lifelong diagnosis and as such the challenges that they experience include cognitive, emotional, social and physical domains need concert effects to be overcomed.

“The biggest challenge that individuals with autism are confronted is the fact that society doesn’t understand and does not know on how to reasonably accommodate these individuals.Thus lack of awareness renders patients to stigma and lack of care,” she said.

Gouws further said that consistent support from families and care givers. Caregivers needs government to support them financially through providing them with social grants to enhance well being of persons with autism.

“Autistic people need to work and employed and being paid more than the minimum wage. We also need to have government to bridge the gap to support Disabled peoples organisations to support families.

“People who come from underprivileged families rarely get access to specialists who can help them. Besides that, they experience stigma from people who misunderstand the condition,” said Gouws.

Gouws, however, said an establishment of policies in the Ministry of Health to ensure hospitals have adequate health care workers to attend to autism patients would be essential in raising awareness about the condition.

“As Africans, we have a diverse understanding of neurodiversity because we have diverse cultures, religions, languages and traditions that can influence how we perceive differences.

“We also need more representatives of autistic self-advocates to advocate for themselves on higher political level especially on united nations level,” she said.

In his remarks, notable health rights campaigner, Maziko Matemba said that breaking the silence around autism is a big step in making autism known to the masses.

“Its very unfortunate that we are still talking about autism as one of the silent diseases that lack awareness in the country. The media and the government should work on amplifying autism voice by also debunking myths associated with the condition,” said Matemba.

Matemba added that people with autism often face a variety of problems ranging from bullying and discrimination in the society.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental difference that influences individuals functioning on different environments cognitively, emotionally, socially and physically.

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