Call to make children with autism more accessible

06Mar 2016
The Guardian
Call to make children with autism more accessible

CHILDREN with autism and hyperactive brain disorders are less acceptable in the society due to lack of inclusive policies, according to experts.

An Occupational Therapist Brenda Shuma (right) with some officials from Autism Connects Tanzania

Brenda Shuma, an occupational therapist, explained that African communities tend to hide their children with disabilities at home, particularly those suffering from brain disorder.

Shuma said most parents were unaware that the condition could be treated by special treatment, including rehabilitation.

The therapist, who doubles as the executive director of the Gabriella Children Rehabilitation Centre (GCRC), described autism as a developmental disability that starts appearing in children at the ages of three.

Autism children often have intellectual disability requiring specialist support, though some can have normal intelligence and live a relatively normal life.

According to her, the disability may impact the child’s ability to communicate and interact with others effectively and may have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), a situation that makes the child or youth’s brain to be active above normal.

“We need to give such children the skills that will make them become productive in society and enable them to enjoy their lives,” she said.

She added, “Issues such as art and craft and cookery, could be taught to improve their competitiveness in the market, including gardening and livestock keeping”.

She pointed out that her organization has been working with several groups of young disability children teaching them entrepreneurship skills.

Under the umbrella of Africans for Africa’s Development (AAD) network, her organization took 324 children to participate the Kilimanjaro marathon.

At least 71of such children were from Gabriella centre with brain disabilities, with 64 participating in a 5km race, while 7 raced for 21km, getting an opportunity to mingle with other children.

“We want more children with disability hidden in their homes to come out to attend our programmes,” she insisted.

One of AAD network members, Sarah Mponzi, urged for the need to ensure that community leaders, government and other stakeholders joined forces to promote socio-economic development while mobilizing resources to support the initiative.