Ayo’s Story: The Autism Journey

**ADVANCE FOR FRIDAY, AUG 21** In this June 10, 2009 photo, Elias Cazares Jr., 13, participates in the PEERS program at the University of California, Los Angeles. The 14-week course helps autistic teens build social skills. Many people with autism spectrum disorders want to develop meaningful relationships, but lack the know-how of slipping into a conversation or deciphering body language and facial expressions, social scientists say. (AP Photo/Kim Johnson Flodin)
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Sade and Tunji were six months into their marriage when Sade took in. The couple was very ecstatic as they went through the journey of first time pregnancy. Tunji was very kind, helpful and thoughtful in so much that Sade could not have asked for a better spouse.

After 8 months and 2 weeks of waiting, Sade was delivered of a bouncing baby boy, Ayo.
The couple couldn’t have been happier; Ayo was a whopping 6 pounds of flesh and just like every new and eager parent, they went through all the process of taking care of their baby religiously.

Sade noticed that as Ayo grew, he seemed to be a slow kid and that he also behaved strangely sometimes, but she took it as part of a growing child’s routine. For instance; he made little or no eye contact with her, even when she was breastfeeding him; he displayed indifference to signs of love; he was easily distracted (he had short attention span); and it was only his toy train he liked to play with, but she still did not think it very unusual.

It was not until when she noticed that even at seven months, he was not reacting to her voice or that of any member of the family  not that her mother suggested that she should visit the hospital to see the ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist.
Following a visit to the doctors and several questions later, her son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Autism?
It was like her world came crashing down before her eyes. Apart from Holden and Ella’s story in Karen Kingsbury novel, Unlocked, she had never heard of such a case before and all she knew about it was very little. The doctor tried to explain autism to her the best way he could, but her mind was already travelling to what she would do, how she will be able to handle such a situation. She thanked the doctor and remembered to collect the contact of an organization that assisted parents with kids with autism.
Thanks to her husband, supportive family and the internet, they were able to get in contact with organizations that provide aid to people with autism, they were able to read several materials and join online groups of people with autism.

Ayo-autism
Though it has not been an easy journey, especially for a family in Nigeria, it has been an informative one. Ayo is now 6 years old and he has a beautiful sister (3 yrs old) that is not autistic. They’ve learnt to appreciate Ayo for who he is, even when people misunderstand and ask them harsh question, they’ve learnt to be stronger and their meaning of definition of what the quality of life is has been completely redefined.
This story is a fiction woven around Asperger’s Syndrome, one in the family of a long list of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Autism is a spectrum disorder, and not a syndrome or disease, because it can’t be diagnosed with a lab test. Some of the other disorders in the Autism Spectrum Disorder are

  • Classic Autism,
  • Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD) ,
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and
  • Rett Syndrome.

There is not enough awareness on Autism in Nigeria yet. A child who has autism should be included in the society and not ostracized. If detected early, that child can go to a regular school and can have a better life. The journey is quite slow, and considering the situation on Nigeria, it might not be very easy but with time and more awareness, you’ll be able to understand more and handle situations better.

It is also important to know that, early intervention helps autistic children.

Feel free to comment on and share this story to as many as you can; show support to an autism initiative, you never know who you’ll be helpings.

If you have any questions,  log on to our Q&A portal, and connect with our HFExperts.

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