Health News of Thursday, 8 November 2012

Source: GNA

Autism specialist calls for more training of speech therapists

Dr Ebenezer Badoe, Director of the Neurology/Development of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, has called for the training of more speech therapists with specialty in pediatric to attend to the rising demand of their services.

He said though there are trained speech therapists in Ghana, he is the only pediatric speech therapist serving the whole country.

Speaking to the Ghana News Agency at the opening of a three-day Autism and Intellectual Disabilities Training workshops for teachers , doctors, nurses, therapists and patients as well as caregivers, Dr Badoe noted that there is one person from his department who had gone for the training abroad and is expected back soon.

The workshop, which will be divided into three sections, will have the first day to teach the teachers how to handle children with autism and other special needs, the second day for nurses, doctors and therapists whilst the third day would be for parents and care givers.

The event is being organised by Haven International- Ghana, in collaboration with the special Education Unit of the Ghana Education Service.

Dr Badoe explained that “Some time ago, autism was not a word in Ghana until five years ago when I came back from the UK to work at Korle Bu. So far, I have seen 400 patients and about 90 per cent have been boys aged two years. I receive one patient a week and this is gradually building up”.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 20 per cent of children worldwide are affected by a disabling mental illness. Developmental disabilities worldwide are commonly under-reported, which poses a problem for the caregiver and individuals affected by the illness as they get older and enter society.

He noted that it is unfortunate that Ghana do not have a reliable data or statistics on autism.

Dr Badoe called for the need to fund such a research, which would give seriousness to the situation.

He explained that there are many parents who are keeping their autistic children at home for fear of being stigmatized.

He asked such parents to send their children for the necessary medical attention.

Dr Badoe called for the training of more occupational therapists and physiotherapists whose work are done in collaboration with the speech therapists.

Barbie Zimmerman-Bier, Chief Developmental Pediatrics of the Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital- USA, who spoke on the “Overview of Autism and Intellectual disabilities” defined the health problem as a biologically based neuro-developmental disorder that is not the result of bad parenting and it typically appeared during the first three years of life.

She explained that it affects a person's ability to communicate and interact socially with others associated with repetitive behaviors and interests.

Treatments she noted are individualized but possible causes with limited scientific data included family factors, prenatal factors, postnatal factors, environmental stressors, metals, infections, inflammation and oxidative.

“Treatment of underlying medical conditions is important to improve the general quality of life of an individual with autism but recent research in certain genetic conditions is paving the way for new treatment,” she added.

Dr Genevieve Kumapley, Executive Director of Haven International- Ghana, said she was inspired to organise the training because of her autistic child and as a Ghanaian decided to impact knowledge to parents and teachers who might have children with autism and other disabilities.

She gave the three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share also known as the 'triad of impairments' as difficulty with social communication, difficulty with social interaction as well as difficulty with social imagination.

She urged parents with autistic children not to hide them at home but rather send them to health facilities to receive the needed care and attention since “such children have special needs that demand special care and attention”.

Mr. Thomas Patrick Otaah, Deputy Director in charge of Special Education Unit of the Ghana Education Service, commended the organizers for the training and said though there are a higher teacher attrition needs, the country have more than enough teachers.

He explained that the country have 28 special schools with 26 units in the mainstream of education into schools, adding, the current teacher student ration is 1:30 instead of 1:8 in children and 1:10 in adults.

He called for more incentives to be given to teachers teaching children with special needs to encourage them to stay and not leave for the mainstream.