The demise of Chidi Izuwah, a man described by those in medical space as “Father of Autism” in Nigeria has left a huge gap in the treatment, awareness and intervention of autism in Nigeria. In a country saddled with a high dose of religious and superstitious beliefs, many ailments and conditions are always seen as something spiritual or supernatural. One of the ailments that people are yet to come to terms with is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
ASD is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects a child’s ability to communicate, interact socially with his environment and also involves unusual behaviour that might be repetitive and rigid in nature. This particular ailment has been viewed from different lenses ranging from superstitious to spiritual. The change of this perception has always been the lifetime project what the late Chidi Izuwah.
Having done a lot of intervention, awareness and sensitization to the public. Engr. Chidi Izuwah brought to the fore the challenges of children with autism and what the government need to do to be involved in this. His opinion on autism was in line with the scientific position and what was written in scientific journals.
He said that “The communication issues in ASD might be absent, delayed, or abnormal speech for age. They might have inability to understand facial expressions, act as though deaf or repeat words said to them. Some might have words but not for effective communication while some have poor comprehensions skills, hence inability to follow instructions”.
The late Izuwah is Archetypical in terms of being a strong advocate and father, co-founder of Our Lady of Guadalupe Health Foundation and Autism Centre in Port Harcourt and Abuja in Nigeria. His passion stemmed from a family member being diagnosed with Autism (ASD) 18 years ago (2003). He was personally involved in domestic affairs associated with nurturing a young mind with ASD and went into individualized personal research for a management protocol in a quest to satisfy his active cerebral mind.
Due to his belief in providing exceptional wholesome integrated services with empathy to children with ASD and his conviction that no child should be left behind by harnessing their potentials, he co-founded The Our Lady of Guadalupe Centre for Autism with his wife, Dr (Mrs.) Doris Izuwah. It started from one room in his humble home in Port Harcourt and has grown to a capacity of providing multidisciplinary services to over 100 children with special needs, while providing jobs to more than 50 youths.