Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’. Often people feel being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity. Autism is a spectrum condition.
All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support. All people on the autism spectrum learn and develop. With the right sort of support, all can be helped to live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing.
Statistics show those with a family living with autism and those who have autism themselves agree that more support from the government is needed, with a total of 16% saying they have enough support from the government.
Out of the larger sample of those who know people with autism, 74% say those with autism do not get enough support from the government. Financial assistance is the most cited type of support needed, followed by help with drug costs and employment needs.
Some of the open-ended answers on government support needed included “Education, rehabilitation, employment,” “Special schools for them, funds to help parents take care of them,” and “Records of autistic people, mandatory school laws, follow up on care, anti-stigma campaigns and acceptance.”
The insufficient of data on autism in Kenya and many other countries has prevented funding for financial assistance, especially-designed educational programs, and awareness campaigns. Initial data from this study shows the need for more research on autism in Kenya so that more inclusive programs for those with autism can be developed over time.
In our societies, we should be celebrating diversity and enabling autistic people to be themselves. Perhaps by creating a more accepting society, we might see fewer mental health difficulties in autism. But we need more work on autism acceptance to work out how we can actually do this.