April 20, 2016      21:57

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Navigating Autism with Patience and Tough Love By Dotun Akande


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The Interview Magazine

197

Mrs. Dotun Akande is the founder of Patrick Speech and Languages Centre (Patricks), Nigeria’s pioneer special needs centre for the education of children with Autism.

From the time her first son was diagnosed with Autism to when she started Patricks and even now, she has invested her all in creating awareness, as well as helping children in the spectrum and their families. It’s no wonder then that her choice of a memorable book is all about Autism.

The book that changed my life is Son Rise: The Miracle Continues, by Barry Neil Kaufman. This book had a great impact on my life, in finding help for children living with Autism. It showed how a mother found help for her son,Raun, when experts had written him off.

She was convinced she could make a difference in the life of her son and gave it her all. She took time to look for a sign of hope and when she found it, she began to push a little bit more and more until the beauty embedded in her son emerged. Her tough love, as I call it, was very inspiring.It helped me as a mother in connecting with my son and as an educator in supporting the children and adults we see at the centre daily.

The book showed me that the experts do not always have the answers. As parents and caregivers, we need to look at our children with disability as a gift and be patient enough to let them show us the way into their world. The gift of the miracle within can only be seen when we give them the opportunity to display their spiritual strength by overlooking their challenges. Many parents look for quick fixes in the recovery of their children, but this book taught me how to be patient even when all hope seems lost. She took things one day at a time and began to put measures in place to enable her son reach out more when she saw that he was emerging and reaching out into our world.

Raun Kaufman today is an ongoing miracle; he gives talks at conferences inspiring parents and educators, as well as experts. It is evident thatchildren with Autism can live a full and functional life, depending on how much therapy they are exposed to and the tenacity of the people working with them.

Our story in Nigeria is similar.We have seen children with Autism develop into functional adults with little or no trace that they were ever on the Autism Spectrum, most of whom had full parental support. This is not to say all stories will be the same, it just tells us that some of our children can do well when given the chance and opportunity to function in their own capacity. Unending love also plays a role in helping them reach this full potential. This was shown in the book when Samantha had to deprive Raun of some of his wants, even when he threw tantrums like crying and hitting himself.She stood her ground until she achieved the objectives needed to take him to the next level. I recommend the book to all parents who have children with special needs.

I also would love to read Louder Than Words by Jenny McCarthy. It also gives insight into how she walked her journey with her son with Autism. It is another perspective and I would love to read it.