On World Autism Awareness Day we celebrate the amazing Kupenda kids on the autistic spectrum.
Because people in countries with high poverty levels are only just starting to learn about the unique abilities and challenges connected to autism, there is no reliable data on the number of people affected world-wide. However, we know that we are encountering more cases all the time, equipping autism support groups for families, improving education options, and teaching communities about autism. It’s not easy but we are making progress.
Our friend Maudy is an example of years of intervention and improvements his community did not think were possible.
When I first met Maudy, he was chained to a tree to keep him from wandering into the town while his mother tried to earn money for the family. This practice is common in the areas of Kenya we work. As awful as it seems, it is usually a desperate attempt by parents to keep their kids safe. Maudy’s mother is a single parent with few income-generating options, like 90% of the mothers in the Kupenda autism group she participates in. This means she had few alternatives to protect and support Maudy.
Maudy has had years of intervention from Kupenda staff, volunteers, and autism support group, while being kicked out of multiple school programs not equipped to deal with his challenges. After much effort, we are happy to say that Maudy has significantly improved. He is having fewer seizures, is no longer aggressive, and is even accepted by the kids at the nearby school who play with him during their breaks. Because of his improvements, our partnership with local school programs and the support of his sponsors, Maudy is finally enrolled in a program suited to his unique needs.
For those of us not on the autistic spectrum, we need to be reminded of the time it takes for us to learn about the unique needs of our friends with autism. I also appreciate their patience with me. It may take years…sometimes lifetimes…but we are making progress. Maudy’s smile is the best reward!