- "Autism is a neural development disorder characterised by repetitive behaviour, mood alterations, impaired social interactions and difficulties in communication."
On Friday 29th April, 2022, the Aga Khan Foundation with funding from the European Union (EU) teamed up with Dorna Centre – Home for Autism to donate foodstuffs and home use items such as soap to families of children with Autism around Kampala.
The activity that took place at Dorna Centre along Muwafu Curve in Ntinda, a Kampala Suburb, was part of the activities done by the partners in commemoration of the World Autism Awareness Month. The World Autism Awareness Day falls on April 22nd every year.
Among the donated items were bars of soap, maize flour, beans and sugar that were distributed to families of children with autism from all over the divisions of Kampala.
Speaking at the donation activity, Olga Namukuza the Programme Manager - COVID-19 project at the Aga Khan Foundation said the activity was just a representative ceremony of greater giveaways they have been doing and intend to keep doing.
She implored Ugandans to interest themselves in knowledge about people living with autism and help fight related stigma for better living.
“We are making a deliberate effort to sensitize the population about people living with autism. We are targeting general community members especially men because we have seen that many fathers abandon their children when they find out that they have autism. We need to ensure that the community supports people living with autism to enable them have a positive life.” Ms Namukuza told Capital FM.
“Children with autism are stigmatized in society because people don’t have information. People are ignorant about what children with autism look like and what kind of needs they need. Many times, they just sum it up and conclude that the child was bewitched without knowing that the child just has a medical condition that needs attention.” She added.
According to Ms Namukuza, the project that the Aga Khan Foundation with funding from the European Union (EU) is implementing with Dorna Centre is worth 48,000 Euros and will run for a year.
Ms Dorothy Nambi, ED at Dorna Centre appreciated the donors for stepping in to help children living with autism and called on more stakeholders including government to interest themselves with people living with autism to avail them a better life.
“We appreciate the Aga Khan and European Union for helping us in this sensitization campaign and awareness on people with autism.” She said.
According to Dr Richard Idro, a paediatric neurologist in the Department of Paediatrics and child health at Makerere University College of Health Sciences, autism is a neural development disorder characterised by repetitive behaviour, mood alterations, impaired social interactions and difficulties in communication.
Children with autism have delayed speech, find trouble expressing their needs and emotions, tend to stay alone, do things alone and cannot look people in the eye. They also have rotative behaviour, follow routines, do things repetitively and love semblance of most of the things and any change agitates them.
“If a child is diagnosed with autism, the area of the brain responsible for concentration attention, speech and memory is damaged,” he says.
One symptom of autism is the delay in speech and if they attempt to speak, the speech may not be contextual and often times, it is a repeated statement copied from another person. Some children become nonverbal or their speech is faulty.
While there is no cure for autism, according to Dr Idro, there are several effective interventions that can improve a child’s functioning. Applied behavioural analysis, social skills training, speech and language therapy and other interventions help children with autism to create a structured behavioural plan for improving their adaptive skills and decreasing inappropriate behaviour, improve their ability to navigate social situations as well as speech.