The president of Ferdinand Effah Music Heritage Foundation, Stanley Effah, has said music therapy may help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) improve their social interaction and communication skills.
Mr Effah said this during the official launch of the foundation in Abuja on Sunday.
He said he was inspired to set up the foundation due to his 11 years experience raising a child with autism.
He said his child has improved since he adopted music therapy while also undergoing other therapies.
Mr Effah said he believes music therapy is a way to help children living with the condition connect better.
He said: ”I was inspired to set up this foundation because of my son Ferdinand who was diagnosed with autism at the age of two.
“He is 13 years old now and I have been struggling trying to manage the situation and see how we can get the best out of it.
“Over the years, we have tried to engage in various therapies and at a point, we discovered that he loves music, so we decided to focus on music while also engaging in other therapies.”
Autism has been identified as a complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted behaviors.
However, the effects of autism and the severity of symptoms are different in each person. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood with many of the most obvious signs presenting around 2-3 years old, but some children with autism develop normally until toddlerhood when they stop acquiring or lose previously gained skills.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one out of 160 children lives with Autism worldwide.
Statistics also show there are 135 million established cases of autism in the world and more than one million children and teenagers suffering from this condition live in Nigeria.
Raising an autistic child
Mr Effah said it is quite challenging raising a child with autism.
He noted that a lot of money is needed to raise children with such conditions, hence the reason for setting up the foundation to help other families raise funds.
“I decided to set up this foundation and raise funds to help other children with similar conditions,” he said.
He added most families cannot afford to raise a child with autism alone.
The principal, music therapy for the foundation, Ojeawere Majek, said music is a tool he used in relating with children with autism.
Mr Majek said children with autism lack the ability to interact socially, hence the use of music to establish a connection between them and the world.
“I have been doing music for the past six years but until recently, I didn’t know it could be a therapy for children with autism.
“The first child I started with really improved over time. I noticed how calm the child is whenever I play music, especially Jazz,” he said
He noted that he has successfully helped two children to connect with the world through music.
“Ferdinand’s parents decided to make music as his career because he really improved since I started working with him,” he said.
Mr Effah noted that the rates of discrimination have prevented lots of parents from seeking help.
He said he didn’t realise some of his neighbours had autistic children until he started talking about the launch of his foundation.
He said people tend to hide children with such conditions due to public humiliation.
“I have never in my life hid my son Ferdinand, he is my son and my identity. I go with him to various big functions, I don’t care about the disgrace or any actions associated with it,” Mr Effah said.
Moses Ekuma, a lawyer and father of a 21-year-old autistic child, said more awareness is needed for the world to accept people living with such conditions.
Mr Ekuma said people with autism suffer stigmatisation in various forms which he said include name calling.
“When my child is stigmatised, I am also indirectly stigmatised but I know that this is my cross to carry,” he said.
Mr Majek, the music therapist, said people living with autism suffer from discrimination due to poor level of awareness on the disease and other similar conditions.
He said people with autism are mostly described as diabolic or possessed individuals.
“Africans have a poor mentality about these conditions and the earlier they learn and understand this condition, the better for us all.
“These people need all the love they can get, so we need to stop the discrimination against both parents and the kids,” he said.
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