Updated 7 April 2009
In December 2007, the United Nations Assembly declared 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). By bringing together autism organisations from around the world, WAAD aims to give a voice to the millions of people worldwide who are undiagnosed, misunderstood and looking for help.
Fancy Dress Show at The World Federation Autistic Day Care Centre
To mark World Autism Awareness Day, The World Federation Autistic Day Care Centre held a fancy dress show for the students. The programme was sponsored by the Diamond Trust Bank. The event was a great success, with 8 guests from the Diamond Trust Bank, parents, siblings, friends and the media in attendance.
Each child was given the opportunity to dress up in a role they one day aspire to be. This exercise allowed the children to be creative and think in the future.
The programme started with a speech by Dr. Zulfiqarali G. Abbas, the managing trustee of The World Federation Autistic Day Care Centre. His speech gave insight into the centre and Autism itself.
Dr Abbas stated:'By establishing this Autistic Day Care Centre in Dar es Salaam Centre, an urgently needed service for improving the physical and mental health of these neglected children and their families have been met. The school is staffed and managed by experienced professionals. We aim at providing a stable, structured environment for our children. Future plans for the centre include maximizing the facilities to provide services for 60 students. Daily life skills are taught to enhance self esteem and independence in children. Early intervention, specialized education and structured support are required at an early stage to help children with autism achieve their maximal potential.’
The programme continued with various performances presented by the children. The children began with the singing of the national anthem followed by a traditional Kiswahili welcome song. Soon after, each one of them went to the stage and introduced their character of the day and even acted out some of that character’s qualities. The children were dressed as doctors, nurses, politicians, policemen, and cooks among others.
The Fancy Dress Show was a phenomenal success, and it was especially touching to see the pride and excitement in the children’s eyes. It was also very emotional for the audience as they watched the children perform. Gifts were given to the best male and female performances. All the children were awarded certificates of participation.
To achieve further Autism awareness, media coverage was extensive. Dr. Zulfiqarali G Abbas gave interviews to 12 newspapers and 3 TV stations as well as an editorial by The Guardian newspaper. The event was widely publicised not only in the local papers but a local television station also ran a half an hour special programme focusing not only on the activities of The Autistic Day Care Centre, but also raising awareness on Autism as well.
The World Federation Autistic Centre
One of Marhum Mulla Asghar M M Jaffer’s dreams were realized when The World Federation Autistic Centre was opened in Dar-es-Salaam on 19th February 2006. The first of its kind in the whole of East Africa, this Centre provides structured support for children with autism and other disabling and chronic conditions.
The Centre in Dar-es-Salaam was opened to provide a well structured, nurturing environment for children diagnosed with autism and other chronic conditions such as Down Syndrome, ADHD, ADD and other learning disabilities. The centre currently operates as a day education school, teaching life, and social, communication, and behaviour skills on top of the basic curriculum.
The World Federation Autistic Day Care Centre receives in house training and full support from The National Autistic Society of the UK. The centre has had renowned visitors, who train staff in working effectively with the children.
The Need for Such a Centre in Tanzania
Today as many as 1 out of every 166 children will be born autistic. Accurate diagnosis and early intervention can provide for building an effective and appropriate education and treatment program.
In developing countries, the facilities to treat children with Autism are poor and very expensive. Children with Autism and other disabling conditions are discriminated against and considered to be useless. These groups of children are deprived of any treatment or therapy and end up in institutions enduring terrible suffering for the rest of their lives.
Though it is very difficult to find specific data on the number of children affected by Autism in Africa, the number of diagnoses is rising, and is now higher than it has ever been before.
However, the personalized therapy and education that these children receive at the Centre is already having a positive effect on the students. The children have shown progress and improvement. There are several success stories of children showing change in behaviours.
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