A new resource center that will provide services and guidance for persons living with autism has been opened in Accra, with a call on Ghanaians to be well informed about the condition.
Located off the Spintex Road in Accra, the facility built by Haven International – an organization that seeks to promote the interest of people with autism in Ghana, will provide support to children and parents who need information on autism and other intellectual disabilities.
Autism is a neurological disorder that has an effect on normal brain function, affecting development of the person’s communication and social interaction skills. It is a lifelong condition that affects millions of people worldwide. According to the US- based Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 percent of the world’s population have Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Experts say the inability of many persons to be well-versed on the condition has led to the stigmatization of persons with it globally. This well-equipped Haven International Austism Center will therefore serve as a hub for research, training, and provide answers to persons who need help.
Speaking at the opening of the center, Dr. Genevieve Kumapley, the founder and Executive Director of Haven International, Ghana, bemoaned how autistic children are treated in Ghana due to inadequate information. She said people need to be informed to know it is a disorder and “not a curse or punishment from God.”
She said the center has doctors, volunteers and other professionals who would readily assist people who walk in.
The resource center provides access to resources and tools for providers and caregivers of special needs individuals. Tools available include access to books, videos and , playground and other informative materials.
Dr. Genevieve Kumapley said she was inspired by the women of Autism Society of Ghana (ASOG), when she arrived in Ghana five years ago, adding that as a parent who also has a son with the condition, raising awareness is a priority.
Some affected parents at the launch shared some of their sentiments on autism, including the high cost of managing it in Ghana. They commended Haven International for setting up the facility, which will get a lot of people in the country to be aware of the condition. The Haven International Austism Center is sited off the Community 18 junction road (Spintex), close to Devtraco.
Established in 2011, Haven International provide services that support the development of professionals; parents and caregivers of individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilitiesincluding Autism Spectrum Disorders.
The organizationhas since 2012 been holding autism training for teachers in schools, healthcare professionals, parents and care givers across Ghana. About 980 individuals have so far benefited from the training program; 60% Teachers, 15% Health Care Professionals, and 25% Parents/Caregivers.
TheNon-profit organization’ vision is to pioneer and facilitate the establishment of centers of excellence in Sub-Saharan Africa, where Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities including autism is a diagnosed and treated. It provides Therapy Sessions, Applied Behavior Analysis, and Biomedical Interventions.
The commissioning of the center was supported by many individuals and organizations connected to the national and global autism response. They included theFocus for Health Foundation,Autism Think Tank, New Jersey (USA), Autism Society of Ghana (ASOG ),Jaden’s Voice (U.S.A), theAutism Research Institute, the St Peter’s University Hospital, amongst others.