Monday, 4 April 2016

2016 Autism Family Support & Stakeholders Forum

On Saturday, 2nd of April, Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark the International Day for Autism Awareness. As an organization, the Comprehensive Autism and related Disabilities Education andTraining (C.A.D.E.T.) Academy in conjunction with the non-profit Dewdrops Community Centre for Special Needs Abuja, organized an Autism Family Support and Stakeholders Forum, at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Conference and Suites in Abuja, Nigeria. The forum served as a platform for networking and discovery, to create awareness about autism, educate, inspire and encourage families, through discussions sharing of experiences by parents of children living with autism and various developmental disabilities.

The event was well attended by many parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, some regular school teachers, prominent school owners, caregivers, and very important personalities in the Federal Government of Nigeria, such as Dr. Dennis R. Shatima – a renowned pediatric neurologist and the Chief Consultant Pediatrician at the National Hospital Abuja. Dr. Shatima who happened to be one of the main speakers at the forum, gave deep insights on the possible causes of developmental disabilities in children and the impact on their families. Mrs. Angela Ikuomola, a mother of a child with autism, and the founder of the Ephphatha Centre in Abuja, also gave a soul-stirring speech that gripped the attention of the participants for about 30 minutes.

The event gave me the opportunity, as the special education Program Director of the C.A.D.E.T. Academy and founder of the Dewdrops Community Centre, to educate and enlighten the participants on some hard facts about the challenges of autism and related disabilities among families. Some of the points highlighted on my paper are the need for all concerned stakeholders to be aware that families of a child with disabilities may be at risk from the following impacts:

• Financial hardship
• Strained emotional relationships
• Restricted social life
• Higher stress levels
• Modifications to family activities and goals
• Time restrictions caused by care demands.

These families are also likely to experience:

• Sleep deprivation
• Performing unpleasant procedures
• Lack of baby-sitters.

The event culminated into an emotionally charged atmosphere of lively discussion among the various participants, and some parents shared their heartfelt experiences.

If you missed this event, don't worry, more of our events and activities are scheduled for the months ahead. You may visit our Facebook page HERE:  to view the official photos. Or you may join our online Family Support Forum HERE.

Some photo highlights are below, after the cut.

And guess what? The family forum ended on a romantic note, with a marriage proposal to one of the staff of the C.A.D.E.T. Academy.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Down Syndrome is an Intellectual Disability. But did you know?

Today, 21st March is observed globally as World Down Syndrome Day! Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of an extra copy of chromosome 21. It is generally associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features, and mild to moderate intellectual disability.

I find it quite interesting that in many societies, including Nigeria where I live, there exists a significant number of individuals living with intellectual disabilities, yet very little is understood about them. Oftentimes, they have erroneously been tagged as "imbecile," or "mentally retarded."


The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) defines intellectual disability as, 

"a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behaviour as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills. This disability originates before age 18."

From the definition, 2 deductions can be made as follows:

a.      Intellectual disability involves problems in adaptive behaviour, not just intellectual functioning.

b.     Persons with intellectual disability can improve (particularly,  those with mild intellectual disability).

Persons with intellectual disabilities are professionally classified as follows:
        a.      Mild (IQ of about 50 to 70)
        b.     Moderate (IQ of about 35 to 50)
        c.      Severe (IQ of about 20 to 35)
        d.     Profound (IQ below 20)

Causes and Identification

Some of the causes of intellectual disabilities are as follows:
a.      Chromosomal disorders such as in Down Syndrome.
b.     Disorders of brain formation.
c.      Maternal malnutrition during gestation.
d.     Fetal alcohol syndrome.
e.      Traumatic brain injury.
f.      Possible hereditary causes.
g.    Unstimulating adult-child interactions can also lead to mild intellectual disabilities.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities can be identified by assessments which combine individual IQ tests and adaptive behaviour measures. The IQ tests are used to assess intelligence while the adaptive behaviour usually involve the parents, teacher or other professional answering questions related to the individuals independence and daily living skills and maladaptive behaviour. (Hallahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2012).

Special Education for Learners with Intellectual Disabilities

Special education considerations for these individuals will be such that if the learner has a lower degree of intellectual disability, the teacher should emphasize academic skills. However, if the individual displays a higher degree of intellectual disability, emphasis should be on self-help, community living and vocational skills development.

When the intellectually disabled student is included in a regular classroom, teachers should plan creative ways to prevent the student from feeling socially isolated and becoming inattentive. Peer assisted learning (PAL) is a great way to achieve this goal.

As in most cases of developmental disabilities, early intervention programs can successfully improve the development of children with intellectual disabilities.