• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
businessday logo


Autism is not a death sentence!

People with autism make ideal employees!

If you can take just one thing from this article, then let it be this: autism is not a death sentence!

Mention the word “autism,” and you can see a mixture of emotions leap into the eyes of the listener, with the primary emotion or reaction being fear most of the time. This fear mainly arises from a lack of information; after all, people fear what they do not know.

For good or bad, we are living in a world where autism is prevalent. Indeed, the World Health Organisation conservatively estimates that 1 out of every 100 children in the world has autism. The United States pegs it at a much higher rate of 1 out of every 36 children, with the numbers increasing annually.

Q: “It is our responsibility as a larger society to provide a nurturing environment for people living with autism to be included.”

It is therefore imperative for society as a whole to take the time to understand what autism actually is and what it is not.

So, what is autism?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), can be defined as:

“A neurodevelopmental condition of variable severity with lifelong effects that can be recognised from early childhood, chiefly characterised by difficulties with social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behaviour.”

Simply put, it is a condition related to the development of the brain that affects the individual’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It is often accompanied by repetitive and overly focused behaviour.

It is important to note that autism is a spectrum, that is, it is so wide by definition that everyone on the spectrum is different.

What are the symptoms of autism?

Some common symptoms of autism include (but are not limited to):

Speech difficulties (delays, repeating sentences, etc.)

Repetitive behaviour- lining up objects, etc.

Stimming (repetitive body movements such as flapping hands, rocking the body, etc.)

Very little social interaction or awareness

Little or no eye contact

Sensitivity to sound, lights, etc.

Tip-toe walking (in younger children)

These are just some of the many symptoms of autism. It is always best to consult a medical professional as soon as possible for an actual diagnosis.

Autism is not restricted to children. Adults are being diagnosed daily with autism.

What causes autism?

At present, there is no known cause for autism.

A lot of parents blame themselves when their child is diagnosed with autism. They sometimes even blame the child or others around them.

This is simply not the case. It is not a result of curses or witchcraft. It is not a result of bad parenting. It is not a result of vaccines.

Is there a cure for autism?

At the moment, there is no cure for autism. If there was a cure, autism would have been eradicated a long time ago.

There are lots of interventions, therapies, and resources to help people living with autism thrive.

It is very important to seek a diagnosis as quickly as possible, as early intervention gives the child a greater chance of improving and living a fuller life.

Is there a future for children or people with autism?

Absolutely! The ability to put 100 percent focus on specific tasks or interests makes individuals living with autism very desirable employees.

With the right interventions, a child with autism can grow up to be a productive member of society. Adults with autism have thriving careers in a myriad of sectors: academia, art, music, engineering, etc. In fact, Elon Musk, one of the richest and most successful businessmen in the world, is autistic.

It is our responsibility as a larger society to provide a nurturing environment for people living with autism to be included.

For instance, in the United Kingdom, shops like Asda, Tesco, and Ikea (to mention a few) have introduced quiet shopping hours where lights and music are turned down to enable shoppers to have a calmer shopping experience.

People with “hidden” disabilities are encouraged to wear lanyards so that they can be quickly and discreetly identified as requiring extra assistance without the need for potentially embarrassing conversations.

Children with autism (and other additional needs) are quickly identified and provided support at school as well as at home by the government in order to be given the best possible chance to succeed in every aspect of life.

We have seen what autism is, so now it is time to dispel some myths.

Autism is not contagious. It cannot be passed from person to person via touch, ill wishes, etc.

Autism is not always accompanied by extraordinary abilities. Some individuals with autism may need much more help with everyday activities.

Every single person with this condition has an innate gift or talent that just needs extra attention and a nurturing environment to help bloom.

Autism is not a death sentence. Early intervention is key.

People with autism can live very full lives. They think differently, but who is to say that difference is bad?

April 2 has been set aside by the United Nations since 2017 to promote awareness of autism globally. Nigeria needs to step forward as a leader to embrace, appreciate, and empower individuals living with autism.

Mudi Nwachukwu (Mrs) is the founder and CEO of Rhimamory Resources, the first inclusive online store in Nigeria, providing educational toys and essential therapy materials for all children, including those with additional needs. She also provides consulting services to help promote the inclusion of people with additional needs.