General News of Friday, 30 April 1999
Accra (Greater Accra), 30th April ?99 ?
Dr Moses Adibo, Deputy Minister of Health, on Thursday recommended, as a matter of urgency, a consensus-building process to diagnose autism in the country.
He said autism is extremely difficult to diagnose, because there is a wide spectrum of behaviours that can fall under its diagnosis.
Dr Adibo, who was speaking at the launch of ?autism awareness month? in Accra, called for a baseline data to be assembled to inform the nation about the condition. The launch was organised by Autism Research Centre, a non-governmental organisation.
Autism is a severe communication disorder that causes individuals to have difficulty in interpreting language and social behaviour. It affects males four times more frequently than females.
The deputy minister said the diagnosis of autism is primarily based on behavioural observations like the absence of speech, overreaction to change and the pervasive lack of response to other people.
Dr Adibo expressed regret that the Centre for Health Research Statistics in Ghana has not recorded a single case. "It seems most people are not aware of the problem."
He said it is estimated that autism occurs in five to 15 out of 10,000 births, but because of the varying diagnostic definitions, statistics are imprecise.
Dr Joseph Asare, Chief Psychiatrist, said 20 to 25 per cent of autistic children show signs of brain damage, and the first trimester of pregnancy could be a contributory factor.
He called for an intensive education on antenatal care and safe obstetric practices. "Community-based training programmes should be organised for non-mental health workers, families and communities on how to handle autistic children."
Mrs Evelyn Oduro-Wiredu, programme officer of the centre, said the centre would be offering counselling, treatment and management for children with autism disorders.