Autism: Why Nigeria records more cases-  Experts 

Autism: Why Nigeria records more cases-  Experts 

  • Advise parents to seek care in appropriate places

Nigerians parents have been advised to seek for professionals in a suspected cases of autism in their children noting that the country and Africans in general are having more cases in the last 10 years.

The experts gave the advice at a GTCO Plc 12th Annual Autism conference held in Lagos with a theme: ‘Creating a Community of Awe-Tism Advocatee.’

A Chief Consultant Psychiatrist and Head of the child and Adolescent unit of Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, Dr Muideen Bakare, while explaining a typical trend in the Nigerian school or hospital, said: “While there’s no national figure, the average is about 1:2 percent of the children in school but in clinical setting, the prevalence may be higher than that because parents bring children with problem in the hospital.”

Explaining why there are more cases now, it could be as a result of more awareness and cultural factors. 

He said: “There is a notion that black Africans don’t suffer autism because it’s rarely found among Africans due to our communal living.

“But these days, we have more nuclear family and children have less interactions and little exposure to peer relationship with extended family membersb because of nuclear setting.

“You need peer to peer interaction for mindset development. Play is an essential part of the development of any child.”

Signs to watch: 

Bakare advised that if there’s a development delay, speech delay or a child cannot look straight to you in the eyes, those are the signs to consider seeing a professional.

He also said if the child is always wishing to be on his/her own, being consumed in his own world, and concentration maybe lacking, it is a sign.

Also, Consultant Emergency Psychiatrist with the Neuropsychiatric Hospital Aro Abeokuta, Dr Oladipo Sowunmi, while advising parents said: “You need the right person to make the right diagnosis for you or else, every thing that happens in the life of a child will be termed autism like intellectual disorders.

“In general, neuro developmental disorder in children is like a salad mixed in different ingredients, you need somebody to sort the ingredients for you and let you to know the main problems.”

Speaking on the time to begin suspect a case of autism, Sowunmi said: “It might appear earlier or later in life but usually we evaluate children during the period that their education had started, where you expect more social interactions.

“In our community, most of the children were picked around the age of six. But if you are within the more educated setting where there’s a pressure of starting the preschool, there’s also a likely hood that you pick it earlier.”

In his speech, Group Chief Executive Officer, GTCO Plc, Mr Segun Agbaje, said: the theme of the conference seeks to highlight the issue of social isolation of persons with autism spectrum disorders whilst calling for all of us to do more in showing practical support for this special group of persons by adopting a mindset of inclusion.”

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