Dealing with autism

Facilities catering for people with autism are behind those offering other types of medical treatment in Barbados. This was the message brought to a forum observing World Autism Day last night, by development paediatrician Dr Jennifer Campbell and a panel of parents of children with autism at the Barbados Workers’ Union’s Solidarity House.

Roseanne Tudor of the  Barbados Council For The Disabled posing a question to the panel. 
Roseanne Tudor of the Barbados Council For The Disabled posing a question to the panel.

“At the [Albert Cecil Graham] Centre there is one speech therapist. In Barbados as a whole, speech therapists are a scarce commodity,” she told the forum organised by the Autism Association of Barbados (AAB), adding: “The service to children with autism is fragmented, but is there in varying amounts.

“A lot of times parents do not know what is best for their kids. And sometimes there are even conflicting ideas on whether autism can be cured, or whether autism is treatable. So all of these ideas are playing in the parents’ mind to confusion and this is where it is fragmented.”

Campbell’s statements led off a panel discussion and were endorsed by comments of the three other panellists who are parents of autistic children –– psychologist Dianne Holder, educator Dr Marva Lashley and Ryan King.

Campbell said treatment offered added to the confusion.

“You may go to this person and they say, ‘My programme is best for you’, and the next person, ‘My programme is best for you’, and the parents are not sure what is best for their kids, because again, they have conflicting ideas about what autism is and what [could be] done to treat it.”

Autism is defined as a development disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate and socially interact with others. According to the AAB, it is four times more prevalent in males, and estimates are that one in every 100 people is affected. Campbell, the consultant paediatrician at the Albert Cecil Graham Centre, which is responsible for Barbadian patients, told Barbados TODAY that 3,000 people were enrolled there and about 150 more were taken in annually. The fate of these is made even more uncertain as a result of an absence of laws specifically dealing with the disability.

Campbell said: “In Barbados there is lack of regulation and legislation . . . for persons with disability, and especially [with] autism; there is no real legislation or regulation. The suppliers of intervention therapies and medicines . . . are there, but in small amounts.”

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