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Managing autism in toddlers

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Children’s Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
PARENTHOOD is not an undertaking especially for first-time parents because it does not come with a generic manual. No child is the same; every child develops differently with individual characteristics and behaviour. However, this experience becomes extra challenging if a child has developmental issues and parents only become aware when the child is much older.
This is 23-year-old Maureen’s story. When her first son Sai, was born six years ago, Maureen thought he was growing normally and three years later, she had her second son, Timo. When she compared the development of her two children, it dawned on her that Sai had development issues. His speech was impaired; he was unable to play or communicate with children his age in the neighbourhood while Timo had no problem. Maureen also realised that Sai was destructive and had issues about obeying instructions, even simple ones, unless he was threatened with punishment.
She explained how none of her neighbours are willing to babysit or watch over Sai if she has errands to run due to his unpredictable behaviour and often annoying behaviour. She narrated how one day he sneaked into her neighbour’s living room, jumped onto a glass topped coffee table and broke it. In the process the broken glass badly cut his leg and her husband had to pay to have the coffee table repaired.
One other time, Sai scratched a car that was parked within the neighbourhood much to the annoyance of the car owner. To make it worse for the young parents, Timo has now started imitating what Sai does.
Maureen is at her wits end; Sai’s behaviour is affecting the cordial relationships she once shared with her neighbours; she has to be alert all the time to keep him out of trouble. Oftentimes, she is compelled to lock him in her tiny home which she acknowledges is not right but it is because she has no family support system to assist her, especially when her husband is not at home or is at work.
Recently, she took Sai to the first-evel hospital in her area where she was given a referral letter to Levy Mwanawasa Hospital. From there, she was referred to Chainama Hil ls Hospital hoping that her son would get the much-needed help, but she was then referred to University Teaching Hospital; to her disappointment, she was given an appointment for some time in November. She had hoped that her son’s medical condition would be viewed as priority but it was not to be.
She tried to plead with the medical personnel at UTH to assist her considering that she lives on the outskirts of Lusaka and transport was a challenge for her, but her request fell on deaf ears. Maureen hopes that when she presents Sai for his November appointment, he will get the treatment which will give her and her husband a peace of mind.
According to the PACER, the Minnesota Parent Training Information Centre, there are a number of examples that indicate emotional development in children. These include:
Poor communication skills or the inability to play or relate with others.
Delays in normal development.
Under-or-over responsive to the environment, objects or environmental changes including light and or sound.
Weight loss or inadequate weight gain.
Significant delays in cognitive or language development as well as motor skills.
Engrossment in self-stimulating behaviour to the exclusion of normal activities.
Inability to form affectionate relationships with care givers.
Self-abusive behaviours such as biting, hitting and head banging.
Attempts to injure others.
Emotional development issues are difficult for children and parents to deal with but any assistance including medical can provide families with the support they need to provide a conducive environment for children dealing with these problems.
Greetings Mrs Chilufya
I enjoyed your article about Girl child education that was published in the Zambia Daily Mail recently.
I am a former graduate in Biomedical Engineering at Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka and I live in Nyimba, Eastern Province. I have a passion for girl child education in Zambia. My friends and I are in the process of developing new strategies to help reduce early pregnancies and marriages because these are some of the vices that have contributed to the high levels of poverty in Eastern Province which has the highest rate of child and early pregnancies.
We would love to work with your organisation to learn and to be our advisor so that we can achieve the common goal of reducing child pregnancies and marriages.
M. Chileshe

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