The Barbados Council for the Disabled celebrated World Autism Awareness Day today with a special day of activities at Brownes beach for families with autistic children.
The family fun day was conceptualised by concerned grandparent Michael Broomes, and activities were organised by the Council and the More to Say programme under the theme ‘Light it up blue’.
“I find in Barbados, that everybody kind of hides the kids, so what I wanted to do was get them in an environment where everybody can organise and relax; and another reason I chose is where we can have facilitation between families, like you go town and I can keep your child and stuff like that,” explained the grandfather of an autistic five-year-old.
Speech language pathologist and member of More to Say, Sue McMillian, pointed out that while they intended for the families to have fun, they also sought to educate the general public on the nature of autism.
“What we want to do as a group today, is to have the public in Barbados see families and children with autism just out like regular kids and families and having a wonderful day together and to start to change the perception that children with autism are ‘hard ears’ and that they are children who just want to get out and have a great time.
“Yes, they have some challenges, their brain functions in a different way, causes their reactions to be different from neuro-typical children but at the end of the day, they love to laugh they love to run and play,” she said.
McMillian, who has been practising in Barbados for seven years, argued that there is room for improvement in the services offered to those suffering from autism.
“The knowledge base and the number of people providing services for families with autism has been increasing, you have some incredibly gifted people here on the island who are working in the field of autism but still there is a huge need for more services.”
Suzette Griffith who has a five-year-old with autism, said she was thankful for the opportunity for her son to play freely like the average child.
She also expressed her wish for the general public to exercise tolerance and understanding of children who suffer from various disabilities.
“These kids with autism, when you see them throwing a tantrum or behaving a certain way, don’t be like oh that child needs training or that child deserves a lash, come to the parent and say what do you need and how can I help you.
“And to these parents with special needs , not only autism, embrace your child, don’t be embarrassed by your child, don’t be afraid to bring your child out , show off your child – they are just as good as the average child.” (KK)