Today is the last day of World Autism Awareness Week. At Kuhenza for the Children we support many children with autism disorders and we support their parents by teaching them about autism and how they can support their child in the best way. 

The following is the second blog in our series of Disability Awareness. It is an extract from the book  “Disability Care and Support Workshop for Traditional Healers”. We train many traditional healers, pastors and family members who in turn become supporters and advocates for Kuhenza for the Children.

Two people out of 100 have ASD

Description:                                                                                                                                        A broad range of characteristics that impact social abilities, language, behavior, and thinking.

Signs and Symptoms:                                                                                                                        (Many people exhibit the symptoms below at one time or another but people with ASD have some or all of these symptoms which may interfere with how they function socially, at school, or at work)

• Difficulty making friends and communicating with people their age in the same way others do or have no interest in interacting with them
• Trouble understanding other people’s feelings and expressing their own emotions like others
• Responds to sounds but not to people talking to them or calling their name
• Want to keep a daily schedule and get upset when it changes unexpectedly
• Have extreme interest in certain subjects or objects
• Delayed speech, repeat words without them making sense to others, say words or phrases said by others around them or have no speech at all
• Do not look people in the eye when interacting and only interact when it benefits them
• React very positively or negatively to sounds, smells, light, and touch
• Do not use gestures like pointing or waving to people
• Do not pretend when playing, like feeding a doll, and do not understand jokes or teasing
• Do not want to hug or be physically close to other people, even family members
• Have repetitive behaviors like rocking, spinning, flapping arms, or other movements
• Like to organize objects in a pattern and do the same play activities repeatedly
• Have unusual sleeping and eating habits
• Very active and have difficulty focusing on things that don’t interest them
• Some learn better than most their age, while others may have the same or lower ability to learn


Possible Causes and Risk Factors:                                                                                                                                                                   • Difference in brain structure and function from birth
• Infections and diseases that impact the brain
• Other disorders such as epilepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, intellectual delays
• Family members who have ASD
• Research is still being done to determine other causes and risk factors
• There are some medications the doctor can prescribe that can help with some symptoms
• Regular visits with a professional who understands autism at
school or other place
• For those who have no speech, teachers and families can help them to communicate with sign language or pictures

Brain researchers at ETH Zurich and other universities have shown for the first time that a region of the brain associated with empathy only activates very weakly in autistic people. This knowledge could help to develop new therapies for those affected by autism.

• Keep a regular schedule and tell them in advance when it will change
• Have a place that is quiet and comfortable for them to go if they are aggressive or upset
• Learn their food preferences as they are often limited
• Make sure they cannot wander to place where they can get lost or hurt
• Learn what causes negative or upsetting behavior and avoid these activities
• Family and community members should reward the person with ASD for good behavior and not punish them for their actions as it is harmful and does not help.