Monday, 14 April 2014

C.A.D.E.T. Academy 2014 Autism Awareness Seminar in Abuja

The Comprehensive Autism and related Disabilities Education and Training (C.A.D.E.T.) Academy organized a free Autism Awareness Seminar on 12th April 2014, and free Autism assessments for 30 families (from 1st to 30th April 2014) in Abuja, Nigeria. The title of the seminar was: Early Intervention - Key to Successful Autism Intervention. The seminar was one of the activities which the organization conducted to mark the month of April as the International Month of Autism Awareness. The aim of this particular seminar was to educate, inspire and encourage families, teachers and caregivers who are dealing with young students living with Autism, towards embracing a proper understanding of the concept of early intervention and various early intervention services that are available.

The seminar gave me the opportunity, as the special education Program Director of the C.A.D.E.T. Academy, to educate and enlighten the audience on some facts and misconceptions about Autism, the present issues and challenges to understanding Autism in Nigeria. We also discussed some of the signs and how to conduct comprehensive tests on individuals who are suspected to be living with Autism. We further considered certain research-based and evidence-based practices we could possibly adopt from the United States of America and other more advanced countries.

The seminar which was offered free of charge to the public was well attended by people from within and outside Abuja. The audience were full of appreciation and some even used the opportunity to share inspirational stories about their personal experiences with persons living with Autism and related special needs. Registration for free Autism assessments/evaluation for 30 families is still ongoing until the 30th of April 2014 (visit our website for details:

If you missed this seminar, don't worry, more of our seminars and workshops are scheduled for the months ahead - some will be free and some will be at a fee. You may visit the C.A.D.E.T. Academy YouTube channel via the website ( to watch. Photo highlights are below, after the cut.

Friday, 11 April 2014


In recent times, there has been a notable increase in statistics of children with autism. The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that cases of children with autism has increased from 1 in 88 to 1 in 68 children. With the rise in the cases of autism, more and more families are faced with the challenge of accessing intervention programs for their children with autism.

When you hear “early intervention,” some questions come to mind. I would attempt to answer some of them.

Q. How early should I start intervention?

To put it simply, intervention should start as early as possible. When parents begin to notice that their child is not developing as expected and they voice these concerns, a common response is, “They’ll grow out of it, just wait.” Unfortunately, the longer you wait the more difficulty you and your child may have eventually. If you are concerned about your child’s development, whether it’s their communication, social skills or behaviours, then you should begin seeking information and assistance as soon as you can.
The earlier a problem is identified, the earlier intervention can begin, and the more likely your child is to learn the skills they need to communicate engage in social interactions and manage their behaviour. If you’re still waiting for an official diagnosis, you shouldn't be waiting to start intervention. If you think there is something that needs to be addressed, get the information, services and training you need to address it.
Q. Why start intervention so early?

Research shows that children who receive intensive early intervention services are more likely to have improved long-term outcomes. These services can maximize their learning potential by addressing communication, play, problem behaviours and overall skill development from a very early age. We know, through extensive research on the human brain, that neural plasticity (the brain's ability to learn new skills) decreases with age. When children are very young their neural plasticity is high, but as they get older it decreases. When this plasticity decreases, it becomes more difficult to learn new skills.
This is not to say that individuals with autism are not able to learn skills if intervention is not started by a certain age. Their brains, just like everyone else’s, are capable of learning and using new skills and information at any time. Behaviourally speaking, however, as we all age and grow the skills we have learned which are effective and efficient will be more difficult to change due to a longer history of reinforcement. So the earlier we intervene to address an individual’s difficulties with communication, social interactions and problem behaviours the more likely we are to elicit quick and positive change.
Q. How much intervention should my child receive?

Research suggests that children should receive 25-40 hours of intensive early intervention per week. While this may seem like an extraordinary amount of time for a child, this intensity of intervention has been shown to be the most effective in addressing the needs of children. Intervention hours may be provided by ABA therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, parents or other family members (after receiving training on intervention implementation) or other service providers. In an ideal situation, intervention procedures should be implemented throughout the day, across settings and across people with whom the child interacts. This intensity and consistency of intervention can help catapult a child to success.
Q. What are the goals of early intervention?

The basic goals that should be addressed with early intervention are child engagement, independence, functional spontaneous communication, cognitive skill development, social competence, play skill development, generalization of skills, and proactive approaches to problem behaviour. The specific goals for intervention will be based on the child’s chronological age, developmental level, specific strengths and weaknesses, and the needs or priorities of their family.
Q. What interventions are available and most effective?

There is no single treatment protocol for all children with autism, but most individuals respond best to highly structured behavioural programs. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development lists Applied Behaviour Analysis among the recommended treatment methods for autism spectrum disorders. Some of the most common interventions are Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, PECS, AAC, Sensory Integration Therapy and the school-based TEAACH method.
 Q. How do I know if an intervention is effective?
The only way to know for certain an intervention is effective is to see the data. These data should be collected and reported to you as a parent on a frequent basis. If there is no data to support the efficacy of the intervention, then you are right to question whether or not the intervention should continue. Data provide us the capability to make timely decisions about interventions. For instance, if the data show the child is not making significant improvements in the expected time frame, we might consider changing something about the intervention. If, on the other hand, the data show the child is making the expected gains we know we’re on the right track. If interventionists are not collecting data, there is no way to quantify change and there is no way to make informed decisions about the efficacy of the interventions being used.

Q. How involved should I be in my child’s intervention?

Your participation as a parent is vital to your child’s success. This may seem like a bold statement, but the truth is that if you are not involved in your child’s therapy programs the likelihood of success is much lower. This is because when you are involved in the development and implementation of interventions the intervention procedures are more likely to be used across contexts and people and your child is likely to learn and use skills more quickly. If on the other hand, teachers and therapists develop and implement interventions but these interventions are not supported or implemented at home the skills are likely to be learned slower and the likelihood of them having long term benefit is going to be small.

As parents, you are the people who spend the most amount of time with your child. You should be integrally involved in the development of interventions, and you should receive extensive training from the professionals who work with your child so you also know how to implement the interventions well. Don’t settle for a simplified explanation of the intervention plan with no hands-on training. The professionals working with your child should be showing you and teaching you how to work with your child. This doesn't happen as much as it should and this can be detrimental to the progress of your child. It is important that you really know how to implement the intervention so you can support what the therapist(s) working with your child are doing and help your child generalize the skills they are learning.

If you wish to learn more about Early Intervention services and the benefits to a child with Autism Spectrum Disorders, you may begin by attending the C.A.D.E.T. Academy FREE autism seminar, tomorrow, Saturday 12 April 2014. The venue is: SRC Meeting Room, 10b Owena Close, off Yedseram Street, Maitama, Abuja. The seminar starts at 11am and would last for 2hours.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day by Ms. Kayla Ortese

Since 2007, April 2nd has been a day set aside and celebrated yearly worldwide to raise awareness about autism. “World Autism Awareness Day is important because it helps to increase awareness and understanding that will ultimately help support children, adults and their families effectively. It is also an opportunity to highlight autism as a priority area for practitioners, clinicians, local authorities and to encourage the government to allocate more resources to this condition. We at C.A.D.E.T Academy light up Autism on the 12th April.

When people hear about Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), what comes to their minds?

Psalms 127:3 tells us that “children are a gift from the Lord, they are real blessings.” Being aware of Autism is one thing, the month of April is the time to really know and learn about Autism, the challenges, the joy of making a difference in a child’s or an adult’s life, the struggles to help improve living conditions.

ASDs is a general term for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction or relationship, verbal and non-verbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. ASDs range from mild to severe. (Mary Jane Weiss & Valbona Demiri, 2011).

ASDs manifest in different in different ways. For example, some children/individuals with autism are not interested in social interaction, others could be more affectionate, yet some others may not be able to use speech to communicate. Most children on the spectrum show signs of nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and these imbalances affect their communication, cognitive development and social skills.

It is estimated that about 75 percent of children with autism have developmental delays. Therefore, their development tends to be slow or unlike typical children with clear strengths and weakness evident. Behavioral difficulties are common, occurring in about 90 percent of children/adults with autism. At least 10 to 20 percent of people with autism exhibit severe behaviors such aggression, and self injury (Lovaas, 1981, Smith, McAdam, & Napolitano, 2001).

In Nigeria and other less developed African societies, the statistics are not very reliable. However, a recent report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that in the United States, 1 in 68 children has an ASD. This newest report is based on the CDC’s evaluation of health and educational records of all 8-year-old children in 11 states: Alabama, Wisconsin, Colorado, Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas, Arizona, Maryland, North Carolina, Utah and New Jersey.

The CDC report estimates that 1 in 42 boys has autism, that is 4 - 5 times as many as girls which is estimated at 1 in 189. According to Coleen Boyle, the director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, the report is not designed to say why more children are being diagnosed with autism. She believes that increased awareness in identifying and diagnosing children contributes to the higher numbers.

At the C.A.D.E.T Academy, we stress the importance of recognizing the signs of autism and seeking early intervention services. Recent research confirms that appropriate diagnosis can determine whether a child has autism as young as one year. Research has also shown that early diagnosis and behavioral intervention improves learning, diet and nutritional support, communication and social interaction in young children with ASDs. Very importantly, the LOVE that comes from parents, caregivers and the community to children can make significant improvements and overcome the challenges that autism presents to families.
One of the most important things you can do as a parent or caregiver is to learn the early signs of autism and become familiar with the typical developmental milestones that your child should be reaching.

The following abnormal developmental “red flags” may show that a child is at risk for ASD. Don’t hesitate in asking your pediatrician for a thorough assessment.

a)      Loss of speech, lack of social interaction.
b)      No meaningful, two word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months.
c)      Lack of non-verbal behavior like pointing, waving, reaching, by 12 months.
d)     No facial expressions like smiling or other warm joyful expressions by six months or thereafter.

At the C.A.D.E.T Academy, we have resources for families, and schools whose children/students have recently been diagnosed with autism.

How can you work together with us?

Support and empathize with parents whose children have been diagnosed with ASDs.
♥ Advocate the rights of such children and families.
♥ Support programs to help provide consultation and job-embedded staff development that helps build capacity among general education teachers for meeting the needs of diverse learners in their content classes (Zigmond, 2007).

Today is Autism Awareness Day - What's all the Fuss about Autism?

The birth of a child has a life changing effect on a family, and when a child is born with a disability, the effect is even more pronounced. Most parents whose child is diagnosed with autism normally have a hard time coming to terms with this reality. This is quite understandable in view of the fact that the understanding of autism is still not very widespread, and the condition currently has no known cure. Some parents might even grapple with the feeling that they are in some way responsible for their child's condition. But the truth is that there is absolutely no basis for parents to harbor any guilt feelings or fears about their child being diagnosed with autism. 

If however, you observe traits in your child that you don't understand or gets you worried, and if you can associate some of these traits with autism, you need to discuss your concerns with your doctor immediately. If your child has already been diagnosed with autism, you need to take action as soon as possible. It is advisable for parents having a child with autism to get information about treatment options. They also need to work with a doctor to formulate a treatment plan that meets their child’s needs.

Contemporary research and emerging technologies has helped children with autism to live better lives. In addition, through effective treatment plans, support of family members and caregivers, children with autism could live healthier, behave more appropriately and even get included into general education settings.

A child living with autism can make good progress and live a fulfilled adult life. But the parents need to empower themselves with the right knowledge. They don't have to wait for professionals to give them all the answers - parents equally have an important role to play in their child's development.

What is Autism?

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. It is associated with a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain.

Here are some quick facts about Autism:

  • It is a developmental disability, and is neurological (i.e. brain-based).
  • It is more of biological than psychological.
  • Autism is the most common among some disorders on a spectrum known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), also known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs).
  • Autism is usually diagnosed by the time a child is 3 years old.
  • Autism could affect any person no matter where they are from, or their socioeconomic status.
  • Autism affects as many as 1.5 million people in the United States alone, with about 24,000 children being diagnosed every year.
  • Autism is diagnosed four times as often in boys than in girls.
  • Children who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder need early intervention as soon as possible.
If you’re in Nigeria, and you're concerned that your child might have an ASD or other developmental problem, what should you do?" ...Get the answer and more at this FREE seminar: