Haven International, an autism training and information centre, has launched this year’s Autism Acceptance Month with a call on Ghanaians to help promote the inclusion of children with autism in mainstream schools.
The theme for the launch is “Inclusion Leads to Acceptance.”
The world has set aside every April as World Autism Awareness Month.
Mr Mohammed Adjei Sowah, the former Accra Metropolitan Chief Executive who performed the launch on behalf of the board and patrons of Haven, said: “Today, Haven is charting a worthy cause that needs the support of all so that one day we will come to celebrate big achievement.”
He said diverse assistance would be required from all Ghanaians as the whole month of April has been packed with a number of activities such as professional development series that involved the engagement with teachers and parents to undertake grooming exercises as well as fun games.
He encouraged every citizen to be part of the programme, especially families, to devote time and play with their children at the centre.
“For all that we are doing, the intention or the objective is to promote inclusivity of kids who are on the autism spectrum so that they would be accepted in their homes, accepted in the communities and would be accepted and mainstreamed in the normal schools that we attend,” Mr Sowah said.
“I was touched when we graduated two kids here. The organisation that was put in for the graduation of the two kids was more than 1000 kids graduating from a big school that I cannot mention,” he stated.
He said there was the need to educate and change society’s mindset against people or kids who were on the autism spectrum, who often became the subject of mockery in our communities.
The former Chief Executive commended Mrs Jennifer Brock, a Co-founder of Haven International, for her effort in keeping the centre running.
Mr Michael Langmer, Assistant Director, Special Education Coordinator of the Tema Metro Education Office said there was the need to include children with autism in the regular schooling and that some prominent personalities who were on the autism spectrum have achieved great height and success.
Mr Langmer called on policymakers to provide facilities to take care of children with disabilities for them to achieve their potential.
He appealed to parents to accept their children with autism, saying: “Let us see what talents they have. Send them to resource centres or include them in our regular schools to help them learn and achieve greater height.”
Mrs Jennifer Brock, a Co-founder of Haven International in a welcoming address said the centre was established 10 years ago to provide autism and other intellectual disability services in the country.
“We started off by bringing resource persons from the US, who provided training for our teachers, healthcare providers, and parents. They also spend time at the centre and welcome children from all walks of life. They also do an assessment of the children, diagnose them, and recommend therapies,” she stated.
Mrs Brock said: “Because we know the earlier, we intervene the better we have gotten really good results and most of the kids go back to mainstream school; some do two days at the centre and three days in mainstream.
“Those who are unable to gain speech because typically most of them were not verbal. They stay with us and go on vocational programmes, which is for young adults. We had one graduation so far; we graduated two girls from the vocational programme and we did a big ceremony because it was a big achievement for us.”
The Co-founder said the organization was looking forward to the next 10 years when it would introduce inclusive education, adding that: “Because in the real world we live with each other, so we do not get our kids isolated.
“It does not help them; it does not help the parents; so, from next term, we will begin to run more inclusive programmes. We all know the stigma some parents attached to kids who have intellectual disabilities they don’t want their children to go near them, but we would try because that is the way to go; in fact, that is government policy” she stated.