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Health News of Monday, 26 July 2021

Source: Dennis Peprah, Contributor

Autism spectrum disorder is not a curse, but a medical problem

Autism could sometimes be linked to being born to older parents Autism could sometimes be linked to being born to older parents

Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to science, is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by challenges in communication and social interaction.

Autistic children mostly demonstrate restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped interests or patterns of behaviour.

The causes of autism spectrum disorder are often unclear. Theories may incorporate findings from a range of fields.


According to Dr. Adomah Odame Forkuo, a renowned Paediatrician, autistic children exhibit unusual behaviours, and some of these kids normally start waving from 10 months.

“If you realise your child is unable to say a few words like ‘Mama or Dada’ and do not show interest in what children like such as colourful things, then it’s a warning sign”, she said.

“Once these signs are identified in children, then there is a problem”, Dr. Odame said and advised parents of such children to seek medical attention as soon as possible.


For Mrs. Linda Oko-Martey, it was extremely difficult for her to control her autistic child during his formative years.

“I did not know why he was proving very stubborn. I knew he had no developmental challenges but he was difficult to control until I heard and understood some basic signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.”

She explained the worsening condition of her only child left her was a scary and discomforting situation.

“How would you cope with the situation when you realise your only child who gives you joy exhibits certain abnormalities. Everybody in the neighbourhood abhors his strange behaviour”.

But, Mrs. Oko-Martey explained that did not discourage her in ensuring the boy acquired quality education.

“Though he still exhibits certain unusual characters, he is my joy and I love him sincerely,” she said.

Identifiable causes

Health experts identified genetic mutations and low birth weight, metabolic imbalances, exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins, as well as a history of viral infections are identifiable causes of autism.

Autism could sometimes be linked to being born to older parents.

Societal woes

Every society expects that children conform to certain standards during their upbringing and developmental stages, and once a child is swayed or failed to go by such standards, then stigmatization sets in.

Most autistic children, particularly, those from poor homes often suffer neglect, discrimination, and worst forms of human rights abuses.

This is because society sees autism as a family curse or linked to wizardry or bad omen.

Autistic children are mostly labelled as ‘water babies' or ‘strange beings’, and go through the worst form of human right abuses.

Because of societal marginalisation, discrimination, and stigmatization, of autistic children, some family members failed to send patients for treatment or seek medical advice, with the idea that the problem is linked with witchcraft.

Though medicine had proven beyond every reasonable doubt that strict adherence to the course of medication could facilitate the curing process of people with autism, families hide them in homes to protect family dignity.

ay forward

Dr. Forkuo, however, dispelled the wrong perception and beliefs that autism was linked to witchcraft, insisting autism was a medical problem that could be managed.

Autistic children, she said, were also embedded with talents, and advised parents, guardians, and the general public to embrace such children and help them build on their talents, saying it was nobody’s fault to be born in such a situation.

Dr. Forkuo advocated the need for the National Health Insurance Scheme to cover the cost of testing and medication of autism spectrum disorders to relieve the huge financial burden of parents, guardians, and families.

Ms. Linda Danso, a teacher at one of the Special Schools in Sunyani noted though they might exhibit some discomforting traits, autistic children “are easy to go with the moment you shower them with gifts”.

She said she was unhappy about the situation in many of the Special Schools in the country and called on the government to create a conducive atmosphere to facilitate proper upbringing and development of children with special needs so that they would grow to become national assets. Not liabilities.

Ms. Danso said stigma and discrimination could add to the suffering and disability associated with children and people with autistic spectrum disorders and called for intensified public education to address the wrong public perception of autism.

Sometimes the situation is very bad in rural areas as communities continue to stigmatise patients, families, and relatives of autistic people because they harbour the superstitious belief that the ailment is linked to witchcraft and the trans-generation curse.

In fact, societal myths surrounding autism spectrum disorders remain a huge challenge that impedes treatment and management of autistic people and the writer believes the nation requires adequate human resources and necessary logistics to increase access to treatment services.

Hence public advocacy ought to be intensified to create awareness about autism for society to appreciate autism as a medical problem, give maximum attention and people with special needs.

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