Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Formation of autism parent support group on the cards

This week’s flying visit to Botswana by the Wales-based Mencap Cymru (MC) Director, Wayne Crocker, is a catalyst for local professionals currently in the process of developing an autism parent support group, says the Otse Camphil Community Trust Director, Andreas Groth.

Speaking to Sunday Standard’s Life Style in Gaborone this week, Groth said the excursion to Botswana by MC’s directorate of Wales’ largest learning disability organization augments current efforts being undertaken in Botswana.

MC has over 3 000 members across a network of 46 groups, and addresses people, beginning from childhood, living the with traumatic psychosocial complexities such as Down Syndrome (DS), Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other Learning Disabilities (LD’s).

Groth said that a meeting to establish this all-encompassing organization would be held at the University of Botswana on October 20 as a follow up to a decision made during a workshop on Autism at Camphil in Otse, giving an opportunity to incumbents and affected families to form an association representing their interests. Groth added that more information would be aired on radio or published through other media, to draw more attention to the cause.

“Botswana now has the advantage to learn from the experience and expertise of the Welsh MC and proverbially ‘hit the ground running’. They have had more than 70 years of experience and evolved the most user friendly strategies regarding LD’s that we can also adapt to suit local conditions, given the fragmented nature of our organizations,” said Groth. “Apart from Camphil, Cheshire Foundation, and a few others are some of the organizations catering for children with LD’s. The visit also creates a learning platform and an opportunity to forge smart and sustainable partnerships with their more globalised set up enabling us to deliver world class standards.”

According to medical research, DS, also called Trisomy 21, is a condition in which extra genetic material causes delays in the way a child develops, both mentally and physically. The physical features and medical problems can vary widely from child to child, some needing a lot of medical attention, while others leading healthy lives.

It affects about one in every 800 babies in the United States.

ASD is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people and how they make sense of the world around them. The condition emerging between 12 and 18 months from birth can be associated with sensory integration difficulties, intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination, attention span and physical health issues. The latest research suggests that one out of every 88 children is affected usually more girl than boy children.

Frida Brahmbhatt-Deurwaarder, founder and director of the Botswana Dinaletsana Development Centre (BDDC) and an independent Occupational Therapist, says the Centre has been set up to cater for the needs of children up to age 18 with neuro-developmental conditions (NDC) and ASD.

“BDDC caters for children with LD’s, varying intellectual abilities, attention deficits and social and behavioural difficulties; and also provides support for their families,” said Brahmbhatt-Deurwaarder. “Dinaletsana’s goals involve improving the children’s lives and grooming them to become part of our society and live their dreams. The education programmes they receive condition them to eventually contribute to the country’s work force. As the aim is to become the leading Developmental Centre in southern Africa, this could be better achieved through public awareness programmes throughout Botswana.”

To be on the fore front as LD’s service provider, BDDC attended Crocker’s presentation at the North Side Primary School Lady Khama Hall.

Brahmbhatt-Deurwaarder said she established the Centre in 2008 after realizing the needing of setting up a multi-disciplinary assessment and treatment facility for children with NDC and ASD. The initial services provided through specialists for a fee include paedriatic, psychology, OT and speech and language assessments. Once funds become available, it is anticipated that a Speech, Language and Audiology Unit and a Sensory Stimulation Unit will be set up.

Crocker, who jetted into Botswana from Wales on August 20, has worked in the field of LD’s since 1994, and holds a baccalaureate in Theology, worked in the diocese of Lesotho in 1987 and 1988. Through MC he has been passionate about and supported people with LD’s to be as visible as possible in Welsh society.

He has developed a number of influential projects which have employed people with LD’s in front line campaigning and educator roles.

Crocker, who was also accompanied by Wales campaigners and also mothers of children living with DS, Dot Gallagher, Janet Jones and Ann Williams, called on Batswana to keep fighting for the visibility and supporting people with LD’s to live normal lives.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development’s Chief Education Officer, Neo Habangana, said the Government is in the process of mapping out strategies to address the category of LD’s to enable them to become part of the society.

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