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Kenya’s family with autistic child defy physical limitations to pursue dreams

The achievement of a developmental milestone by a child is often marked with an outburst of celebration by the parents.

However, in some rare cases, some parents are thrown in the unfamiliar territory of caring for a child who may take a while before they develop speech, learn to interact with others, and attain some level of autonomy.

Such a parent is John’s mother who cares for his preteen diagnosed with autism 12 years ago. “The news that my son was autistic was sobering but I took it all in a stride. I shifted my focus away from the diagnosis and into preparing him for a life free from round-the-clock assistance,” said John’s mother who wished for his second name to be concealed.

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition that leads to significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. While the condition is lifelong, children who are diagnosed early can undergo a prescribed therapy to achieve some level of functionality.

“Therapy has had a significant impact in accelerating John’s development. He is now able to sit, walk, use the toilet, and dress on his own. Even hospital visits are not as frequent. He is well on his way to become independent,” said John’s mother.

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John’s mother said that assisting him to harness his interest in music is vital in tapping into his full abilities. “He enjoys listening to music and making sounds. I plan to get him an assortment of musical instruments to see which one he prefers.

This could be the art that will propel him to become a star,” said John’s mother. The family is optimistic that John will ultimately chart his path.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had called for efforts to create favorable working conditions for people with autism. “Recovery (from COVID-19) is also a chance to rethink our systems of education and training to ensure that persons with autism are afforded opportunities for realizing their potential,” said Guterres in a message for World Autism Awareness Day, which falls on April 2.

“To truly leave no one behind in pursuit of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, we must realize the rights of all persons with disabilities, including persons with autism, ensuring their full participation in social, cultural and economic life.

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Let us work together with all persons with disabilities and their representative organizations to find innovative solutions to recover better and build a better world for all,” he said.

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