Efe Irele, a young Nollywood star has recently, unveiled her autism foundation called Efe Irele Autism Foundation in Lagos, with the aim to create greater awareness about autism disorder and support families with autistic children.
Irele said the initiative to set up the foundation was, first and foremost, an expression of love for her immediate younger brother who is autistic. She felt that awareness about the disorder was very low and regretted how much of injustice and agony persons living with the condition had had to suffer as a result.
"Growing up, I saw how it kind of put a stigma on me and the family as a whole; people would look at him in a funny way because they didn't understand what autism was all about. There are a lot of families that actually have autistic kids, but because of the shame and the stigma that come with it, they hide the children: they lock them up in the house. "People will come and say its witchcraft but at the end of the day you'll find out that most of these people have autistic kids. And the truth is after locking them up and all that, it actually makes them worse," she noted.
She noted, with experience, that autism was nothing to be ashamed of adding that her foundation would bring families with autistic persons together, to make them know they are not alone.
The Nollywood star further assured that beyond pushing for autism awareness, her foundation would stir up support for poor families with autistic children economically and otherwise.
In a speech at the event, a certified autism specialist, Mr. Bidemi Yinusa, said autism was a neuro developmental disorder that impairs the normal socio-psychological skills development of a child that has it. He noted that a child with autism will typically lack the social interaction skills, lack speech clarity, isolates self, easily gets angry and throws things away.
While emphasising that autism was not a disease, Yinusa explained that early intervention with appropriate therapy would help to manage persons living with autism to become socially conscious and be integrated into society.
Some mothers with autistic children who shared their experiences at the event, including Mrs. Margaret Irele, the mother of Efe, said love and understanding were most essential in raising a child with autism.
Highpoints of the event were the official launching of the foundation and distribution of gift hampers to parents with autistic kids as well as some supporters of the foundation.