GT Bank connects stakeholders at the 8th Annual Autism Conference

GT Bank connects stakeholders at the 8th Annual Autism Conference

The 8th edition of the GT Bank sponsored Annual Autism 2-day Conference kicked off yesterday with very high expectations from stakeholder, that is, he

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The 8th edition of the GT Bank sponsored Annual Autism 2-day Conference kicked off yesterday with very high expectations from stakeholder, that is, health care experts medical experts, care givers, teachers, proprietors of special need centers, parents and even children living with autism, all of who converged to exchange information about what autism is all about, how it can be managed as well as the role play of everyone directly or indirectly affected by the health disorder. And to say that many left fulfilled having gained loads of information would be simply putting it mildly.

Starting off the conference which began on Tuesday July 17th was the representative of the Lagos State government, Joyce Onafowokan, an Early Intervention Expert and a Special Adviser to Governor Ambode on Social Development, who in her address reiterated the fact the Lagos State was the only state out of the 36 states of Nigeria, taking the issue of Autism serious. According to her, not only has the government issued a directive for Lagos State University Teaching Hospital to carry out extensive research on autism and collate data on children with special needs in the state, she disclosed that the state government was already concluding plans to provide centers for children with special needs. In addition, knowing how difficult it is for people with special needs to become gainfully employed, the state government, Onafowokan said, is already blazing the trail in the aspect by providing employment opportunities for them.

Annual Autism
Exec. Director, The Colour of Autism Foundation, USA, Camille Proctor, Chief Consultant Psychiatrist with Neuropsychiatric Hospital Abeokuta, Dr Paul Agboola, Early Intervention Professional and SA to Lagos State Governor on Social Development, Mrs Joyce Onafowokan, Head of Comm & Ext Affairs, GTBank, Oyinade Adegite, Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri, Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Yewande Oshodi and Chairman Childhood Neuropsychiatric Disorders Initiative (CNDI), Dr. Muideen Bakare at the 8th Annual Autism programme

Speaking on the strength of collaboration in raising a child was the director of Patrick Speech and languages Center, Dotun Akande who is also an Advance Certified Autism Specialist. She broke down the different roles of everyone in the society (directly or indirectly) involved in the life of a child living with ASD and how everyone should work hand-in-hand to achieve a common goal of ensuring that children living with autism are given the necessary support needed to thrive in the society. While outlining how the collaboration should be done; through education, autism conferences and consultation, autism outreach, research among educators and health practitioners, researches conducted in hospitals, she didn’t fail to mention that collaborations would come with challenges as with everything one sets out to achieve. However, with the vision at the back of everyone’s mind, a greater good will be achieved.

In her presentation, United States based Camille Proctor, an executive director of The Coloyr of Autism Foundation, chose to use her situation to drive home her point. With an autistic child who was diagnosed with autism at 18 months, she was forced to learn about self advocacy as a way to create awareness about the disorder starting with her immediate environment. She encouraged parents to be their special needs children’s best advocates as well as seeking out ways to make a life a more pleasurable experience for their children.

Most often, many mistake autism for mental illness with even medical practitioners, in some cases giving wrong assessment and diagnosis. This Dr Maymunah Kadir, a psychiatrist and the medical director of Pinnacle Medical Services attempted to clarify in her presentation while speaking on the role of mental health in the community. While not ruling out the fact that some autistic children do come down with some symptoms of mental health challenge, she pointed out that experts in mental health should be open to collaborating with each other when making assessments on patients rather than assuming they know it all when in actual fact they may not. She advised medical practitioners in various fields to stick to their calling and not try to dabble into areas that are not their areas of core competence.

There was a panel discussion among health providers on dealing with seizure and other health challenges associated with autism. Among the panelists were a speech therapist, a nutritionist, a pediatrician, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, all of who took turns to highlight on these challenges associated with autism and how well to manage them.  To round off the first day of the conference was a session where parents spoke about the challenges of raising a child living with autism.

In all, the GT Bank sponsored 8th Annual Autism Conference was as enlightening as it was emotional. It is instructive to note that Annual Autism Programme was born out of the Orange Ribbon Initiative, an initiative created by GT bank in 2009 to support people with developmental disabilities and special needs. Autism was chosen to be their area of focus due to their concern for people who suffer stigmatization and get very little support in the society.