By Adewale Adeyanju, Lagos
Special Needs individuals must learn how to advocate for themselves and how to be proactive in their own planning process.
This advice was given by Mrs. Dotun Akande, Founder and Executive Director of Patrick’s Speech and Language Centre, Ikeja-Lagos at the Autism Awareness Foundation (TAAF), autism awareness conference tagged “Magnifying Individual Differences” held on Friday 9 June, 2023 at Queens College, Yaba- Lagos which also includes launching of Toolkits and Graduation of 30 Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) who have successfully completed training in vocational skills acquisition.
According to Akande, “Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a diverse group of conditions, characterised by some degree of difficulty with social interaction and communication. Other characteristics are atypical patterns of activities and behaviours, such as difficulty with the transition from one activity to another, a focus on details and unusual reactions to sensations”.
Explaining the process of transition from childhood to adulthood with it’s involvement of developmental changes and challenges for persons with autism, she took the audience through different stages of transition focusing on the splinter skills that the individual with autism possess and also expatiate on how to identify functional ways of reaching people with autism and other related developmental disorders, helping them to discover their innate abilities and harness the same to enable them become a successful individuals.
She classified the transition stages as 0-5; 6-13; 13-18years and Adult life, maintaining that each stages has its physical, emotional, vocational, health and nutrition as well as social peculiarities and parents as well as educators must show apparent interest and look at the potential and unique qualities of the children.
Canvassing for importance of training persons with autism in social and life skills will “enable Special Needs person to be aware of their rights, duties and responsibilities to themselves and society” adding further that “they can also be trained to develop skills to think critically by providing different opportunities to look at different perspectives of an issues – the pros and cons of allowing one decision over the other and making them realize the negative consequences of making hasty and unplanned decisions” she stressed.
Her lecture highlights how individual with autism can be groomed to be useful to themselves, their family and society at large stressing that early identification and training is the key. Different kinds of training and acquisitions of life skills useful for individual with autism were highlighted including tailoring, bead making, cleaning, taking inventory, carpentry, tye and dye, art and crafts, sports assistant, office assistant, packaging goods etc.
She concluded that: “In order to make transition effective, avenues should be open for training and retraining. This will build sustainability and maintenance of skills over time as skills building occurs with constant practice”.
Earlier, in her welcome address, the Convener and Founder of The Autism Awareness Foundation (TAAF) – Mrs. Omotoke Ayo Olugbade described TAAF as an organization that is focused on inclusive education for children with disability especially children on the Autism spectrum disorder, while also raising awareness and advocacy in the community to change perspective and myths about Autism as she believes that each child counts and each child can learn irrespective of their disability, mental health or environment.
Mrs. Omotoke who is also the Executive Director at TheraConnect, an online mobile platform that connects parents of children with disabilities to therapist within their proximity emphasize her dedication to disability community and the need to continue to create awareness in order to improve the well-being of persons with autism disorder.
A toolkit launched at the event was to help create an enabling environment where individual with autism and parents can easily get support and get access to different therapists.
Over 30 persons with disabilities graduated at the event having complete three months training requirements and were given certificates with tools to support their businesses. Some of the skills acquired includes digital marketing and photography, barbering, soap making, graphic designing, and computer programming.