Fri | Sep 17, 2021

Advocate wants multi-ministerial cooperation for autism support

Published:Saturday | April 24, 2021 | 12:05 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

The Maia Chung Autism and Disabilities Foundation (MCADF) is calling for inter-ministerial cooperation between the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and other stakeholders, to provide proper social support for people with autism.

Maia Chung, the MCADF’s founder and one of Jamaica’s foremost autism advocates, made the call on Thursday while addressing an online autism seminar held by the Caribbean Autism Support for Education and The Mico University College on the Zoom platform.

“We believe there has to be some inter-ministerial efforts between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education. They need to have social support for mental health for the parents and the caregivers of autistic persons, but I do not know if we are there yet, so we as a foundation are calling for that,” Chung told the seminar.

COVER UP DIAGNOSIS

According to Chung, since 2008 when the MCADF was founded, her group has observed that parents of autistic children often try to cover up their children’s diagnosis by placing them in schools that are not suited for their needs.

“Persons here in Jamaica over the past 13 years try to put their children in schools that are not suited for them, and what happens is that these ‘camouflages’ put them against people, including children, teenagers and persons at the tertiary level, who are looking at them and treating them as if they are neurotypical people. But they are suffering inside, and this only worsens the scenario,” said Chung.

“We have also found over the past 13 years that it is expensive to get your autistic-diagnosed child into a proper institution. A crucial situation that we think needs to be addressed is the absence of definitive and current data in health and education, to allow for mapping of what needs to be done to address these things,” Chung added.

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behaviour, for which symptoms generally appear during the first two years of life. It is categorised together with Pervasive Developmental Disorder and Asperger’s syndrome as Autism Spectrum Disorder.

While there are no available statistics for the prevalence of autism in Jamaica specifically, it has been estimated that one in 34 boys and one in 144 girls globally will be diagnosed with the disorder.