William: Thriving on the Spectrum
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) about 1 in 100 children worldwide have autism. ‘Autism spectrum disorder” – as defined by the WHO – “constitutes a diverse group of conditions related to development of the brain.” In most of the developing world, we have multiple ways of testing for and supporting our loved ones, but what about countries where there is a lack of knowledge about or support for autism?
There are studies that suggest the average age of children diagnosed with autism is around three years old in both the United States (US) and in the United Kingdom (UK). This is not necessarily the case in other parts of the world, where children can go undiagnosed.
In Sierra Leone, the Enable the Children program is working to diagnose, assist, and educate family and community members to support and care for children and families who live with an autism diagnosis. Autism is as diverse as the number of individuals diagnosed with it, therefore individualized therapeutic methods are needed. Therapeutic methods are tailored to meet each child’s needs to help them grow and thrive.
The Enable the Children (ETC) team first met William, now 9 years old, in January 2021 when he came to the hospital with his family because they were experiencing difficulties with his behavior: he was angry and acting out, simple tasks were impossible for him to complete, and his family didn’t know what to do to help him. After being assessed, William was diagnosed with autism.
The team began working with William, providing him with support and therapy. When William came to be assessed, he was non-verbal and completely dependent on his family. Enable the Children staff also worked directly with his parents, providing education and support to his family, empowering them to understand their son’s diagnosis and help him grow in all areas of his life.
A Happy Outcome
As the team worked with William, his confidence grew –along with his ability to complete daily tasks. He is now thriving in all areas of life. He has learned how to take care of his personal needs: dressing, bathing, eating on his own, and brushing his teeth. He is also attending school and has learned to identify numbers and letters, how to color, to listen to instructions, and to concentrate.
When he experienced negative interactions at school, the ETC team requested pastoral and ETC staff visit the school to help the school develop a better understanding and sensitivity to William’s unique needs and abilities. The school has learned about William’s diagnosis. As a result, he is now included in activities.
Because of this help, William is making friends and flourishing among his peers.
William’s family has shared their gratitude for the work of Enable the Children in helping their son adjust to a new life, thanks to the interventions and assistance provided. They are experiencing hope in their family and community. William is well-adjusted and his entire family and community admire his unique personality and the progress he has made.
Enable the Children provides support to the child and the family and community when needs occur. Entire communities are being transformed by the care and support provided by the team in Sierra Leone.
Contributor: Bernicy B. Kallon
Family Support Worker, Enable the Children Program, Sierra Leone
World Hope International