Dealing with autism

When Robert Ssekidde, also known as, Tuff B the artiste, was in secondary school, his mother got disabled after she lost one of her arms in a motor accident.
She struggled to see him through school after the accident, unfortunately, she passed away when Ssekidde was in Senior Two. For the rest of his secondary education, his father struggled to pay his fee until he completed secondary school.
After completing his diploma at the UMCAT school of journalism, he got funding from Starkey Foundation, and together with other individuals, was able to start Dolphin Foundation Special Children Special People, a charity organisation that looks after autistic and special needs children.

Home for special children
An activist for disabled persons, having been raised by one, Ssekidde runs a home which offers therapy, rehabilitation and special needs education to autistic children.
When you get to Special Children Special People, noises of children are what welcome you.
Since autistic children are sensitive to colour, their classroom walls are painted brown. However, the children have also added colour to the wall with their ramshackled writings, written using all kinds of materials, including charcoal, and stretching as high as their little hands can reach.

One parent’s experience
Lilian Mugisha, a resident of Salama in Makindye, spends Shs10,000 on transport daily to drop and pick her autistic son, Drake Gasana from the children’s home.
When Gasana was three years old, Mugisha noticed that he was unwell. “When I took him to Mulago hospital to find out what the problem was, doctors there told me he was autistic because he had lost his speech and could not concentrate,” Mugisha recalls.
At Mulago, Mugisha was aised to take the toddler to a psychiatric facility in Bugolobi to seek further medical help. There, Mugisha met Dr Justus Byarugaba at Children’s Medical Centre who prescribed some medicines that she was to administer to Gasana for some time, something she did for three months.
“While I made sure he always took his medicine, at his primary school, he couldn’t fit in with the rest of the pupils. I was aised to look for a special needs school that could contain my son. That is how I found the children’s home,” Mugisha narrates.
It is three years down the road since Gasana was diagnosed with autism. Unlike some autistic children who may not do anything at home, Mugisha says Gasana is able to do some house chores like fetching water, mopping the house, washing clothes, utensils. He is also able to find his way back home after playing with his friends in the neighbourhood and do any other domestic work.
“I thank God that amidst all these complications such as my son’s inability to concentrate and his loss of speech, I remained strong and left everything in his hands because although Gasana is autistic, he can see and walk normally,” Mugisha says, adding that the only problem is that when he’s annoyed, he bites his arms.
Mugisha explains that she no longer gives Gasana medicine, opting to take him a special needs school since the medicines he was given previously caused him to sleep too much. Now that her son is in school, Mugisha pays school fees of Shs600,000 every term for Gasana.

Teaching special needs children
“A class of 24 autistic pupils, requires three to four teachers. You have to group them according to their ability because they learn at different speeds and you have to teach focusing on all. The other teachers help you in controlling them because they do not concentrate on their own,” explains Pauline Kaggwa, a teacher at Special Children Special People, adding that one teacher may not grasp all their needs.
As shown in the experience of parents and teachers, autism is a complicated childhood development disorder which is often misdiagnosed. There is also limited awareness among the public on how to detect autism and on procedures for handling autistic children.
However, parents can receive support once they consult a qualified child specialist for proper diagnosis and aice.

Diagnosis and care for autism

Dr Justus Byarugaba, a paediatrician at Children’s Medical Centre in Bugolobi explains that autism is a condition that is genetic and can be passed from parents to their children.
“If mothers are exposed to environmental toxins, they bring about genetic mutations that in turn cause autism,” Byarugaba says, adding that it can also be a neural development disorder that shows early signs such as late bubbling. The signs usually present after the child has made one year of age.
When a child is autistic, Byarugaba explains that they experience delayed or poor communication skills, inappropriate social skills and repetitive mannerisms and that they also lack reciprocal association.
“Autism is not a progressive condition but the damage in behaviour that occurs becomes worse,” he highlights, adding that other complications a victim experiences include autistic spectrum disorder, childhood disintegrated disorder and Asperger’s syndrome, a condition that involves delays in development of basic skills such as ability to socialise with others, communicate and use imagination.
To prevent a child from severely being affected by autism, Byarugaba aises that in case a child shows signs like late bubbling, parents should seek early intervention and proper assessment done by a paediatrician, a child development expert, a speech and language therapist, clinical psychologist or a special needs teacher to look at different affected areas. “If you start prevention intervention early, the outcome will be positive,” Byarugaba concludes.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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