, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 ”What did l ever do to deserve this?” This is the question Fridah Ndegwa a mother to an autistic child wondered aloud when she was told her son suffered from this condition.
Fridah discovered something was not right with her son at the age of three.
She says he was hyper active unlike other children his age and did not make an effort to utter words or show signs he understood anything communicated to him. This worried the mother and she began looking for specialised treatment to understand the condition at hand.
As he grew up, the challenges became more elaborate. This made the mother depressed seeing her only son not develop like other normal children in the neighbourhood. She could not maintain house helps as they left one after another.
But as fate would have it, lady luck smiled at her and now has a helper who has been with the boy for a while now. Making her two daughters embrace their brother was another tall order but with constant counselling they have passed through that phase.
Known for her bubbly personality, she buried herself in a world of misery. She stayed away from her friends not because she wanted to, but because her son was hyper active and most people would not be comfortable with that.
Due to the challenges she went through, she resigned from her lucrative business to focus on her child. She reminds me that raising a child with autism is a constant challenge. ”It is a full time job that one cannot delegate to someone else, she says, as the child grows the demands become more elaborate.”
There are times he is calm but many are the sleepless nights when he stays awake, cries and throws things around the house. It is at this point that parental love comes handy she reminds me. With support from her husband, they now have been able to take their son to a special school that takes care of autistic children.
The boy is now 11 years old. Looking at him, he presents himself like a normal child but has his moments.
Fridah is now redeeming her bubbly personality. She is a member of a support group nursing children with autism. Here, they encourage and comfort each other.
”Creating awareness and giving unconditional love to children with this disorder is the first step towards helping these children.” She narrates with a captivating smile.
Jimmy Karanja who trains children with special needs at the Autistic Support Centre (Kenya) says these children should not be hidden from the community; instead there should be what he refers to as individualised education plan.
This plan, he says, is a strategy where objectives are set stating how one is going to execute it, who is involved in the program i.e therapist, nutritionist, parents, siblings etc so that they can work as a team to achieve desired results.
He recommends regular schools where they include children with autism in the same class like ordinary children and are taught together.
”Autism presents itself at different levels, this may be mild to extreme and this is where a doctor comes in to educate about the condition if the behaviour of the child gets out of control,” narrates Dr Judy Kamau a lecturer at the department of psychiatry at the University of Nairobi.
It is estimated by the Centres for Disease Control that 1 out of every 68 children worldwide is affected with autism. It is for this reason that April is set aside as World Autism Awareness month, and April 2nd is the official World Autism Awareness Day as declared by the United Nations.
In closing remarks Fridah emphasised the need to love children with autism because love conquers all.