SECONDARY school and some university students have launched a campaign dubbed ‘Stand with Autism Tanzania’ (SWAT) to provide public education on Autism, the disease that affects children.
The group coordinator, Kemilembe Mugangala, said in Dar es Salaam during a fund-raising event held at Woodberry Café over the week end that, the campaign would help to raise the voice about the disease and discourage stigma.
Mugangala noted that, the SWAT team had identified a number of diseases which exist in the local communities but are not well-known citing Autism among them.
As a result, she says that families with Autism victims were always ill pared and often do not know what to do or where to go for help, which is what has motivated them into forming a public campaign to specifically deal with the disease.
“… contrary to popular belief, Autism is not a curse … nor is it connected with witchcraft as many local communities in rural areas believe. They need to understand that it’s a disease just like other diseases. When they have a child in the family with a problem they should not hide him or her,” she said.
Commenting on how to spread the message to the public, the team leader says they would be working closely with public health experts and that, through the network, enhance public education through visits to affected families, providing them with advice on how to handle the victims.
The team would also conduct seminars across rural communities where the disease is more pronounced, and also utilise media outlets to communicate to larger public about the symptoms of the disease, how to get the treatment and assist the victims as well as education on how to live with it.
Some of the symptoms include a child’s failure to look at people’s eyes, failure to use speech to communicate, small awareness on what he or she is told, repeating what other people say, and also tend to isolate themselves, usually playing the same game every day or using the same playing device.
Health experts throughout the world have not been able to establish its cause. It is often observed in a child from the age of three, the time when a child is expected to show ability to identify things, imitate and learn different things.