As the Lagos State government joined the rest of the world to mark “World Autism Day”, medical experts at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) have called for early intervention on the disease.
Speaking at an event organised to mark the day, Dr. Bola Ola, a Consultant Psychiatrist at LASUTH, described Autism as a medical condition that occurs within the developmental stages of a child, which is usually noticed between birth and four years of age.
He noted that autism is associated with several other conditions such as speech impediment, behavioural sameness, problems with reciprocal and social interaction.
Referencing the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Ola stated that being a genetic condition, autism could run in a family, saying “one out of 54 children will usually have autism, while one out of 37 boys and one in 150 girls are autistic”.
He observed that “three out of 10 children have problems with intellectual ability as they usually operate below expected performance and this makes them to lag behind while their peers process information more quickly”.
On his part, Head of the Psychiatry Unit in LASUTH, Dr. Olayinka Atilola, pointed out that children with autism can be helped to lead normal lives if early intervention methods are implemented.
According to him, “there is a system known as Neuro-Developmental Surveillance, used to identify the case before it becomes obvious.This means going to places where children aggregate like schools, creches, immunisation units and the like”.
“These children are not presented here as having any problems, but screening can be done and those whose development is not normal are red-flagged and are taken for further investigation”, he added.
Atilola further explained that when that pathway is followed, a diagnosis is likely to come early and the children are able to benefit maximally from such intervention.
Both doctors also opined that anybody can be trained on how to identify these red-flags because the screening instruments are already simplified and can be administered by middle-level, non-specialist care providers like a nurse, pharmacist, teacher or community health worker etc.
The experts maintained that screening tools can identify someone who is at risk, adding that at the first instance, 70 out of 100 children may be red-flagged, but further investigation by a specialist could confirm 50.
It was, therefore, advised that parents, teachers or child caregivers must pay maximum attention to children’s behaviforal patterns and social interaction.