Autism, a neurological disorder observable in early childhood characterized by atypical communication, language development, eye contact, anxiety and hyperactivities, and sensory experiences, is the hard reality people face.

Martins (not his real name), is a skillful keyboardist especially for his young age of 10, keeping to himself and quick to throw tantrums while finding it difficult to communicate effectively mostly due to speech impediments.

This is one of the reasons he has very few friends and gets bullied easily.

Martins have been diagnosed of autism which his parents found so hard to accept at first, thinking it is probably because the child is introverted.

This is the hard reality people face upon hearing autism as there is little awareness created to explain this condition.

Nigeria joins the world in the celebration of World Autism Day on April 2nd, as it is a day set aside to raising awareness about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), celebrating the unique strengths and talents of individuals on the spectrum

With this years theme for World Autism Day 2024, “Moving from Surviving to Thriving: Autistic Individuals share regional perspectives”.

It highlights the importance of listening to and amplifying the voices of individuals with autism, the acceptance, support and the inclusion of autistic people, and the advocating of their rights, as well as creating a thriving environment for them.

People with ASD often times exhibit abnormal social interaction, restricted interests, highly repetitive behavior, lack of concentration and eccentricity

According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, approximately 1 in 160 children worldwide are diagnosed with ASD, thus displaying the significant impact of this neurodevelopmental disorder on a global scale.

In Nigeria, the WHO statistics on autism reveal both the growing awareness and the challenges in addressing the needs of individuals with autism with an estimated 1 in 88 children thus emphasizing the need for increased awareness, support, and resources for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Studies put the prevalence of autism in Nigeria to 2.9percent among children between the ages of 3 to 18 years.

One of the key challenges is the lack of early detection and intervention for autism in Nigeria. Many children with autism are not diagnosed until later in life, leading to delays in accessing essential services and therapies. This delay can impact outcomes and hinder the development of effective support systems for individuals with autism and their families.

Sometimes, some of the parents and guardians are in denial after diagnosis of their children or ward of autism, and there is also the fear of stigmatization which challenges interventions for autistic people.

Even some healthcare workers fail to detect autism in children early as they are often times lacking in adequate training.

According to a report by Pace Hospitals, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be traced to the development of differences in the brain. Autism patients could have socialization, communication and interaction problems associated with restricted or repetitive behaviours or interests. Also, their ways of learning, moving, or paying attention are distinct from other people.

The autistic spectrum is one of the various neuro-minorities among dyspraxia, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder etc.

Speaking on the 2024 global health celebration, the Secretary-General’s of the United Nations, António Guterres, in his message highlighted the need to recognize and celebrate the important contributions of autistic people in every country and community while noting barriers autistic people encounters.

“But around the world, they continue to confront barriers on their fundamental rights to education, employment and social inclusion, as called for by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” Guterres stated.

“As a matter of fundamental rights, governments must invest in stronger community support systems, inclusive education and training programmes, and accessible and technology-based solutions to enable persons with autism to enjoy the same rights as others,” he added.

Guterres further explained that scaling-up support and investment in countries and communities would require working hand-in-hand with persons with autism and their allies.

“Today and every day, let’s unite to realize their rights, and ensure an inclusive and accessible world for all,” Guterres stated