Mater Dei Schools, Satellite Town, Lagos recently celebrated World Autism Awareness Day 2019 to give hope to parents of children with learning disabilities.
The day was marked for the first time in the history of the school which clocked ten years this year in commemoration of the World Autism day. The celebration provided the school the opportunity to create awareness for Autism and to introduce their Support Unit which provides inclusive education for children with learning disabilities.
Autism is a disorder that affects the communication and socialization skill of children. It is caused by genetic and environmental factors. This year’s celebration has the theme, ‘Assistive technologies, active participation’. The World Autism Awareness day organised by the support unit of Mater Dei School was graced by parents, students and teachers from other schools in Satelite Town.
Speaking on the theme, the school administrator, Mrs. Florence Okorji said Autism is not a disability but a different ability.
She noted that tools such as talk light and, augmentative and alternative communication device (AAC) are assertive technologies that can help children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) achieve better success in the classroom and in daily living.
In her words: “Individuals liv- ing with ASD deserve support. Irrespective of the outcomes, they desire your love, care and attention. We thereby urge all medical agencies, support services and individuals to put together community resources and provide necessary respite services for autistics.”
Miss Pat Akuegbo, the Support Unit Head told The Education Report that by marking the day, they are joining the rest of the world to create awareness about Autism. More so, to reach out to parents not to be shy or lock away their children with learning disabilities as they are bunch of talents.
Sharing how the unit started, Pat explained that when the school started in 2008 special need children rejected in other schools came seeking for admission. This need and challenge of the parents of these children she said propelled the school administrator to put in plans to run an inclusive education in the schools. The support unit takes the special need child through the pre-school, primary and college arms in the citadel of learning.
“There are so many learning disabilities in children. Some of them are Autism, Down syndrome, Cerebral palsy and Hearing impairment.
“Some parents are ashamed and lock up their children with these disorders. We are begging them to bring out their children. We want the world to know that these children are still useful in the society. We have an arm in the school that cares for children with these disorders. We are practicing inclusion to teach them how to be relevant in the society.”
Occupational therapist, Francis Anachebe added that independency is the vision of the unit for the children. Hence, they work with the children through individualized educational plan. Parents pity their special need children and always hide them away from the society. “We don’t pity them. Rather we feel for them and with this feeling comes the ability to help them out,” he explained.
Mrs. Uju Onyeka, a mother of three has one of her child in the unit. According to her, it is nobody’s fault that she had a child with Autism rather it is a natural occurrence. She explained that the boy was four years old when he was enrolled in the school but now 13.
“Uche used to be hyperactive, plays and screams a lot. With the help of the support unit, he can now comport himself, understands gesture, talks and hears better.
Mrs. Onyeka added she has a vision for her son to be an entrepreneur who would employ other people while sharing his success story. She admonished parents to understand and accept their children with special needs. She however advised parents never to compare their child with other children or his siblings because the child is unique.
The occasion saw the special need children entertain guests with various presentations. Accessing their presentations, Nweneka Glenn in Basic 3 said Autistic children are smart, creative and orderly, while Michelle Claire in Ba- sic 5 said they can retain learning performing onstage without the assistance of their teachers.