Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc (GTCO) has announced dates for its 2023 autism conference and follow-up consultations, tagged “Empowering voices for autism’’ to promote inclusivity and self-advocacy for persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
According to the financial services group, the GTCO autism conference has grown to become a reference point for autism advocacy and intervention in Africa, providing support and empowerment to thousands of people with neurodevelopmental disorders.
The company noted that this year’s autism conference is in partnership with specialists, and organisations within and outside Nigeria, adding that the conference will feature lectures, panel discussions, and performances carefully prepared to showcase the diverse talents that exist in the autism community, while also creating a platform for persons with ASD and their families to connect and share ideas of autism spectrum disorder including its nature and management.
A statement from the company noted that the 13th annual autism conference has been scheduled to take place in Nigeria on 24th and 25th of July at the Muson Centre, Lagos state, while the free one-on-one clinic will open from July 26th to 29th at the Chapel of Light, Alausa, Ikeja.
GTCO added that the autism conference in Ghana will begin with a workshop on the 1st of August, at the University of Professional Studies, Accra, Ghana, and consultations will last from August 2nd to 5th at the same venue.
Commenting on the 2023 autism conference, Segun Agbaje, group chief executive officer of Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc, stated that society thrives when diverse individuals with their distinctive voices, perspectives, and cultures are welcomed and celebrated. He noted that It is important that persons on the ASD spectrum are given the chance to succeed and empowered to experience life to the fullest.
“We are excited about the evolving insights on the management of autism and remain committed and ensure that more and more persons with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are able to find their voice and embrace their uniqueness whilst contributing meaningfully to society,’’Agaje added.
In a press briefing on the impact of the social intervention conference for the society, Tolulope Onipede, head corporate communications, GTCO) said that the major impact of the autism conference is to create awareness and increase of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
“Our key objective is to provide professional consultations for people living with autism. Another objective also is to foster improvement of care and management of autism. And again, we also support inclusive quality education, and we have platforms to ensure continuous followup after the conference. So, it is important for the voice of the initiative to be heard to promote effectiveness of the awareness being created,”Onipede said.
On his part, Charles Eremi, the group’s corporate communications team lead, said,
“Persons on the autism spectrum are still people like us,but they happen to be different, so it is important that we are able to empower them, speak for them, and also continue to amplify the awareness.They actually have a lot of creativity to offer the society. So, it is our duty to integrate them and improve their acceptance into the society, so that they can be their full selves.”
Also speaking at the press briefing, Osezusi Boladeoku, an international behavioural analyst and qualified autism services practitioner, emphasised the importance for parents to ask for after care services for their children on the autism spectrum, to get them equipped with all they need to put their wards on intervention.
Boladeoku pointed out that creating platforms to promote autism awareness is a major impact of the conference, stating that through the platform,parents of individuals on the autism spectrum will be able to come out and talk about it.
She added that her role in the Orange Ribbon Initiative, a brainchild of GTCO, is to use creatives such as music,arts, sports, gymnastics, etc, to help children with autism have a sense of belonging.
Speaking on controlling autism, Remi Olutimayin, a writer and autism advocate, said, “it begins with awareness, which leads to accommodation, and acceptance of individuals on the autism spectrum in the society. My role here in the programme is to speak on how I worked some success into my life despite the challenges, and I hope I will let a lot of people better understand through this conference.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by different levels of impairment in social communication and interaction, repetitive behaviours, and restricted language ability, is one of the misunderstood and stigmatised disorders globally, has become prevalent in our society recently.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), people with autism often have co-occurring conditions, including epilepsy, depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as well as other challenging behaviours such as difficulty sleeping and self-injury.
Data obtained from WHO indicates that one in 100 children lives with Autism globally. There are 135 million established cases of autism in the world.
Also, a study in the University of Lagos Journal of Clinical Science disclosed that one out of every 125 to 150 Nigerian children is living with ASD condition, amounting to about 600,000 cases. It was also established that male children are more prone to the condition than girls. The spectrum of autism in Nigeria cuts across class or social standing.
Autism in Nigeria is a condition primarily misunderstood and rarely talked about. It is considered one of the most ignored health issues in the country. There is low awareness and inadequate provision for early diagnosis and management of the neurodevelopmental disorder, hence GTCO, has kicked against the odds, and stepped out to empower people and create awareness about autism.
The financial services group, through an offshoot of its Orange Ribbon Initiative, popularly known as the autism conference has become a pacesetter, driven by the developmental challenges faced by children in empowering people and creating awareness on autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.