What is Autism?

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Autism is a lifelong complex developmental disorder that impairs a person’s area of social communication, interaction and imagination. Typically it appears during the first three years of a child’s life and affects more boys than girls (by a ratio of 4:1). Autism has no known cause or cure, but has a number of management interventions that may help children affected with autism spectrum disorder to acquire a quality of life -- particularly when the condition is diagnosed early and appropriate intervention strategies are effected.

The essential features of a person within the Autism Spectrum Disorder are the presence of markedly abnormal or impaired development in imagination, social interaction and communication and a markedly restricted repertoire of activity and interest. Many children do not develop speech at all, and those who do may not use it to communicate. Much bizarre and ritualistic behavior accompanies autism, and often these behaviors include self-injurious habits such as head banging. These particular problems, typical of autism, have led to a widespread and very unfortunate assumption that people with autism are not complete human beings and, therefore, do not have the same rights as other people. Autism affects all individuals differently and in varying degrees.

Numerous cases of children with autism have been reported through electronic or Print Media in Kenya, where Parents/Guardians have resorted to chaining or locking up their loved ones due to a lack of information. Thus, the constitutional and human rights of freedom of movement, right to associate, right to appropriate intervention and education are grossly violated. Since the formation of The Autism Society of Kenya, there is more awareness and all of these referred cases are dealt with appropriately.

Some signs to look for in children:

  • Lack or delay in Spoken Language
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Repetitive use of Language and /or motor mannerisms
    (for example hand flapping and twirling objects)
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects.

It is estimated that the disorder affects 800,000 people in Kenya today, based on the WHO estimates; this calculation is based on Kenya’s current population of 40 million people. Autism in Kenya is a disorder more often than not associated with witchcraft, bad omen and or curses. Some parents tend to seek divine intervention after they are made to believe that their children are attacked by demons. Autism is classified as a developmental disorder which is a category of disability for persons who are cognitively impaired.
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