“How many persons are affected with autism in Barbados?”
This is the question repeatedly asked by potential funders of autism programmes on the island and the answer is always the same, “We don’t know,” said President of the Autism Association of Barbados, Lawton Walcott.
As World Autism Awareness Month, observed throughout April comes to a close he is calling on the authorities to institute a proper registration system for people affected by the developmental disorder.
In an interview with LOVING ME†he said though awareness of the disease had increased the lack of numbers proved as one of the main reasons more sponsors had not come on board to support them. He said due to them being unable to present the precise numbers so people thought high numbers of people were affected hence the disorder was not seen as that important to combat.
Walcott said that at present the surveys done were carried out on all disabilities and as a result they were all lumped together. Therefore one could not get precise number of the people affected by the various disabilities and when meeting with potential sponsors they were instead forced to give ratios or estimations. He said the care of autistics was very expensive, and accordingly, sponsorship was needed for them to cover their expenses.
The Autism Association currently has a respite care facility located in Durants, Christ Church where they cater for children 12 years and up. The facility was opened nearly three years ago and housed four males teens and four care givers. Walcott added that their plan was to expand the facility and gradually increase the numbers they cater for.
Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behaviour. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organise. It is one of three recognised disorders in the autism spectrum the other two being Asperger syndrome- which lacks delays in cognitive development and language, and pervasive developmental disorder- which is diagnosed when the full set of criteria for autism or Asperger syndrome are not met. (KC)††