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Update: World Autism day in Lagos, Nigeria.

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Saturday, April 2nd, 2016
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In view of the World Autism day which is marked globally on the 2nd of April, Patrick Speech and Language centre in partnership Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Centre for Children Development, Cycology club, Parents of Children living with Autism and other non-governmental organizations held an awareness walk and cycling campaign to commemorate the day.  The walk was scheduled to commence at 7am and participants converged at GT bank Ilupeju branch, Lagos before setting out en-masse all the way to Jibowu area of Ikorodu road and back to the start point. caught up with some of the participants and the organizers of the event to shed more light on the objective of the awareness campaign and the challenges people living with autism and their caregivers encounter.

Speaking with Mrs. Toyin Akinkanju, a single parent who has an 11 year old Autistic son, she informed that although effort such as the campaign is being made, however, awareness about autism is still a major challenge. She recalled how she began noticing differences in her son’s behavior and initially thought it was a spiritual attach before she was referred to a specialist hospital by someone in her neighborhood. According to her, that was the turning point for her and she has since committed herself to raising awareness about Autism. She also raised the issue of funds and bemoaned how cost intensive it is to raise an autistic child in Nigeria.

This point was further buttressed by Mrs. Dotun Akande, campaign facilitator and founder of Patrick Speech and Language Centre. In her account, funding is a major challenge for autism in Nigeria. She informed that there is a need for an increase in investment in facilities for autistic children. In her account of how she came about working with children and adult with autism, she informed that she has being working full-time with children and adult with autism since her son was diagnosed 10 years ago. She also expressed her appreciation to all the stakeholders who made the awareness campaign possible, especially Guaranty Trust bank PLC.

We also spoke with a representative of Guaranty Trust Bank, Ms. Tolulope Onipede -Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Officer for GTB. She informed that the bank’s sponsorship of the event falls within its CSR objective of giving back to the community. In her words ‘The Bank understands that we can’t solve all the world’s problems, so we picked out 4 areas to focus, which are Education, Community development, Arts and Environment’. She stated that the awareness campaign falls within ‘community development’ and that the bank has being involved in supporting people living with autism for a decade. Activities in that regards include, helping establish the Patrick Speech and Language Centre which caters for children with Autism, hosting an annual and national Autism conference with the sixth edition scheduled for June, 2016 and in partnership with relevant government ministries and NGO, as well as sourcing some of the best brains in the world to offer free consultation services to autism caregivers in Nigeria.

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