HEALTH experts have appealed to society to avoid stigmatising children born with autism spectrum disorders and engage them like any other children.
Speaking at the launch of World Autism Awareness Day, Pathways Autism Trust founding trustee Flora Chinhaire said most autistic children were being shunned by their own family members and often denied the opportunity to interact with their peers.
Autism is a spectrum disorder that affects the child’s ability to properly communicate verbally and socialise and may be characterised by unusual, repetitive behaviours and hyperactivity. Children with autism do not make eye contact and appear locked in their own world.
“Parents are most often blamed for causing their children’s disorder and that sense of hopelessness by the parents leads to isolation and depression,” Chinhaire said.
“We also appeal to the community to accept our children because they are also part of society.We are appealing to the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to incorporate our children too in the systems.
“They are often left out so we need them to support by recognising and adapting the situations into the systems.”
Health and Child Care deputy minister Paul Chimedza said although the disorder was not quite visible in Zimbabwe, government was planning to set up therapeutic centres to cater for autistic disorders.
Autism Organisation in Zimbabwe director Helen Mutambara said they mainly concentrated on rehabilitation of children with autism.
According to a 2013 survey by the Centre for Diseases Control, 11 in every 1 000 people and 1 in 54 boys had the disorder.
World Autism Awareness Day is celebrated every year on April 2 and this year’s theme is Autism Awareness: Helps Early Detection and Prompt Management.