• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

Bloom Buddy partners Autism Speaks to digitalise Nigerian Autism Screening Questionnaire

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Bloom Buddy has partnered with Autism Speaks, a non-profit autism awareness and research organisation in the United States to digitalise the first Autism Screening Questionnaire (NASQ) in Africa’s most populous country.

Sola Fatoba, chief executive officer and co-founder of Bloom Buddy told BusinessDay that the organisation is proud to be part of this important mission and looks forward to working with Autism Speaks.

“As we strive towards our collective goal of ensuring Nigerians have access to the most innovative resources for detecting and managing autism and other mental health conditions,” he said.

“Together, both Bloom Buddy and Autism Speaks can ensure that Nigeria is a leader in the field of autism diagnosis, treatment and support,” Fatoba noted.

Furthermore, Fatoba added; “Bloom Buddy stands by its mission to create a fully accessible and connected ecosystem to support families in accessing care for mental, behavioural and neurodevelopment issues.

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“As part of this mission, the company will contribute to this very important process by digitising the Nigerian Autism Screening Questionnaire (NASQ) assessment tool to make it more easily accessible to Nigerians as the team remains dedicated to our mission of delivering essential services to Nigerians everywhere.”

The NASQ is a free informant-report screening tool designed for low-resource settings in countries including Nigeria. The organisation has been introduced to assist in the early detection of autism.

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects 1 in 68 people worldwide, and according to a recent survey, the prevalence rate of autism in Nigeria is even higher, occurring at a rate of 11.4 percent among children with developmental disabilities.

The exact cause of autism is unknown, but it has been linked to genetics and environmental factors. Symptoms vary widely, but can include difficulty communicating and socializing, restricted interests and behaviours, as well as sensory sensitivity.

Over the past few years, there has been increased awareness about autism in Nigeria, but more needs to be done to diagnose and treat those living with autism in the country.

The development and digitizing of the NASQ herald a new era for accessible diagnosis for Nigerians living with autism, allowing them to get the appropriate prognosis that informs the right intervention needed for the needed care.

With more awareness and improved access to effective diagnosis for those living with autism, the NASQ can pave the way forward for more effective interventions that create a better quality of life.

The development of the NASQ was based on DSM-5 criteria (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) and consists of two phases.

The first phase, which was completed in 2022 after six years of development and community validation, was focused on the development and validation of the tool.

The NASQ remains a screening instrument until the completion of the second phase of the validation study, which is still in progress.