Autism Month: Municipality Advocates For Increased Awareness
April 2, 2021 marked the 14th annual World Autism Day; which day is commemorated to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, foster worldwide support and inspire a kinder, more inclusive world. This year’s theme is “Kindness”; and it advocates for a kind world that is willing to accept people in their vast diversities. Evidence shows that the City of Manzini, and the Kingdom of Eswatini at large, has people with Autism, however, there is a need for awareness creation so that citizens can begin to better understand and accept people with this disorder. Inclusion forms part of the value system within the Municipal Council of Manzini hence the Municipality advocates for social inclusion and better understanding of people with this condition. With April being Autism month, this article seeks to create awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the hope that citizens will begin to have a better understanding thereof and embrace those who live with this condition.
WHAT IS AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a condition related to brain development. This condition impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others; causing challenges in social interaction and communication. The condition includes limited and repetitive patterns of behaviour. The disorder has a wide range of symptoms and severity hence the reference to the term “spectrum”. Autism spectrum disorder begins in early childhood and eventually causes challenges in society — socially, in school and at work, amongst other environments. In most cases children show symptoms of Autism within the first year. A small number of children appear to develop normally in the first year and then go through a period of regression between 18 and 24 months of age when they develop autism symptoms. While there is no cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder, intensive, early treatment can make a big difference in the lives of many children.
HOW TO IDENTIFY AUTISTIC BEHAVIOUR
Some children show signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder in early infancy. These symptoms include reduced eye contact, lack of response when their name is called or indifference to caregivers and those around them. They prefer playing alone, retreating into their own world. Some even resist cuddling and holding. Others may develop normally for the first few months or years of life but then suddenly become withdrawn or aggressive or lose language skills that they had already acquired. In most instances, symptoms are identified by the age of two. Some children with Autism Spectrum Disorder have difficulty learning and others show signs of below normal intelligence. Others, on the other hand, demonstrate normal to high intelligence. They learn quickly yet have trouble communicating and applying what they know in everyday life as well as adjusting to social situations.
A child with Autism Spectrum Disorder does not speak or has delayed speech or loses previously acquired skill to say words or sentences. Some children with this condition have difficulty recognizing non-verbal cues such as interpreting other people’s facial expressions, body postures or tone of voice. As they mature, some children with Autism Spectrum Disorder become more engaged with others and show fewer disturbances in behaviour. Some, usually those with the least severity levels, may eventually lead normal or near-normal lives. Others, however, continue to have difficulty with language or social skills, and the teen years can bring worse behavioural and emotional problems.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
Babies develop at their own pace but children with Autism Spectrum Disorder usually show some signs of delayed development before reaching two years of age. There’s no way to prevent Autism Spectrum Disorder but there are treatment options. Early diagnosis and intervention is most helpful and can improve behaviour, skills and language development. However, intervention is helpful at any age. If you are concerned about your child’s development or you suspect that your child may have Autism Spectrum Disorder, you are advised to discuss your concerns with your doctor. Your doctor may recommend developmental tests to identify if your child has delays in cognitive, language and social skills.
COPING AND SUPPORT MECHANISMS
Raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder can be physically exhausting and emotionally draining. Experts in the field recommend that parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder find a team of trusted professionals such as social workers, teachers and therapists, who can help identify and evaluate available interventions in your area. Parents are also encouraged to learn about the disorder. There are many myths and misconceptions about Autism Spectrum Disorder. Learning the truth can help parents better understand their children. Caring for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder can put stress on your personal relationships and your family.
To avoid burnout, take time out to relax, exercise or enjoy your favourite activities. Try to schedule one-on-one time with your other children and plan date nights with your spouse or partner — even if it’s just watching a movie together after the children go to bed. Look for other families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Other families struggling with the challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorder may have useful advice. Support groups for parents and siblings of children with the disorder are available and they can be helpful.
ANY AUTISM SERVICES IN MANZINI CITY?
Help us create a directory of Autism services in our city. If you are a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Faith Based Organization, or Community Based Organization or even a private business or entity which provides Autism Spectrum Disorder services, please contact the Municipality on 2508 5091 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The information will be useful to the Municipality.