Early detection of autism and effective intervention by healthcare professionals have been touted as a sure way of building a solid foundation for affected children and giving them a good start in life.
In that regard, pediatricians, psychologists, speech therapists, occupational and behavioural therapists, special education teachers, dieticians, and social workers have been tasked to contribute more to help in managing the condition.
Dr Nana Esi Gaise, the Head of Public Health, Effia-Nkwanta Regional Hospital, said this at the launch of the World Infant, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Day in Takoradi, which will also celebrate this year’s Autism Awareness Month.
The programme was organised by Empire FM, a local cosmopolitan radio station.
Dr Gaise advocated a support system where such children could grow to be independent, sociable, smart, and contribute meaningfully to the development of society.
April 2 has been designated as World Autism Day and the whole month is geared towards autism acceptance creation for support and management of the disease.
More awareness was needed to promote acceptance, celebrate differences or neurodiversity, and to be more inclusive towards persons living with autism, Dr Gaise said.
“Autism is merely a different kind of brain and this is what we call neuro-diversity,” she said.
The neuro-diverse nature of persons living with autism left them with some social and communication deficits, which impaired and impacted their lives in many ways resulting in speech delay and other temperamental behaviours.
“This is why it is important to educate mothers on their child’s developmental milestones in order to quickly seek help where there are delays in achieving expected abilities or even regression of already achieved abilities,” Dr Gaise said.
The Public Health Expert said a child from age one who refused to point at objects needed help and mothers and caregivers must be smart to detect such development gaps for quick medical intervention.
“When autism goes undetected because of lack of awareness, these children miss the critical period of intervention being from birth to age six, allowing some to become violent, unable to progress academically, or communicate and socialise with family and friends.”
She urged parents not to lock up such children at home but assist them to unearth their talents and educate them on their social rights.
The Regional Hospital, she added, was securing the services of speech therapists to help families access care to promote universal health coverage.
On Mental Health Awareness, Dr Gaise said parental education in nutrition, safety, stimulation, early education opportunities and protection of children and adolescents were critical.
She called for more awareness on impacts of the condition, community support system, and strengthening of specialised workers, caregivers and families to ensure better care for children with autism.
Mr Kwame Malcolm, a representative from the Empire /Radio 360 media group, expressed gratitude to stakeholders and sponsors for contributing to a worthy cause.
He prayed that parents would be emboldened and enlightened to pursue quality healthcare for children with the condition.
Ms Mercy Eshun, a parent, urged families with peculiar cases to regularly liaise with healthcare professionals for prompt care.
“There is no need to hide a child with autism…They are not outcasts or an abomination. They are humans …change will come one day if you don’t get tired on the way.”