Experts from diverse sectors have called for the inclusion of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) care in national and state health insurance schemes. They also urged government to assist people living with ASD with funds as obtainable in Canada, United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US).
They made the assertion at the 11th Guarantee Trust Holding Company (GTCO) Plc. yearly autism conference held Tuesday and Wednesday at MUSON Centre, Lagos, with the theme: ‘Life Beyond The Diagnosis.’
Board certified behaviour analyst and president, Behaviorprise College of Business and Health Studies, Canada, Lanre Duyile, said therapies for children with ASD are expensive globally, noting that countries such as Canada, United Kingdom and United States take the financial burden from parents by providing monetary support. He stressed the need for consistency in caring for affected children, saying this yields desired results in therapies they undergo and aids speedy healing.
Founder, Cradle Lounge Special Needs Initiative, Lagos, Solape Azazi, regretted that enough light is not shed on what autism is and how it should be approached in Nigeria. According to her, a lot of parents are weighed down by attendant financial challenges and are unable to get needed interventions.
Azazi, a mother of a child living with ASD, disclosed that government facilities lack adequate treatment procedures, forcing parents to seek more expensive private care. She advised government to come up with a policy for supporting parents with “disability stipends” and include ASD in health insurance schemes.
A lawyer and certified behaviour analyst in the UK, Adesola Toyin Adesokan, lamented that Nigeria is yet to implement policies protecting the rights and well being of children and adults living with ASD despite being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Right of People with Disabilities and Discrimination Against People with Disabilities Prohibition Act 2019.
On her part, speech therapist and software engineer in the US, Jeannette Washington, urged Nigeria to adopt technology in the treatment of autism.
Also a language pathologist, Washington said there are great apps and software to help people with autism communicate and still have full social lives. She urged government to partner with technology companies to provide solutions.
In her opening remarks, Wife of Lagos State Governor, Dr Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, commended the bank for coming up with the initiative to ensure children affected by ASD are not stigmatised, but receive support from parents, teachers, friends, government and the entire society.
Delivering his keynote address, the Group Chief Executive Officer, Guarantee Trust Holding Company, GTCO Plc., Segun Agbaje, reiterated the bank’s commitment to championing conversations on how to empower children and adults with developmental disabilities.
He said the bank, through its campaign, would take down social stigma and institutional challenges that continue to inhibit the ability of children with ASD to live full and productive lives.