Researchers have lamented the dearth of data on Autism Spectrum Disorder in sub-Saharan Africa
Researchers have lamented the dearth of data on Autism Spectrum Disorder in sub-Saharan Africa.
They, however, said research studies coming from Nigeria have contributed significantly to the subject of ASD in sub-Saharan Africa.
The researchers, led by Muideen O. Bakare, lament the treatment gap of major childhood-onset mental health problems, not only in Nigeria but across sub-Saharan African countries, with the gap being most pronounced for neurodevelopmental disorders.
They stressed the urgent need to balance public health priorities and to provide research funding in sub-Saharan Africa.
“This must be reflected in pragmatic health care planning, policy formulation, and implementation,” the study, published in J Health Care Poor Underserved
The researchers say a common noticeable problem among persons living with ASD is late presentation and diagnosis.
“Despite early parental concerns about delay in the normal development of their children, the children with ASD in Nigeria often tend to present very late to clinical practice settings, with an average age of about seven years,” the study noted.
The authors said all the reported cases in their study had associated intellectual disability as a comorbid condition.
“One of the case reports highlighted an association of ASD with oculo-cutaneous albinism [a group of conditions that affect the pigmentation of the skin, hair, and eyes].
“Other associated comorbidities with ASD included seizure disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity symptoms,” they said.
The American Psychiatric Association says that autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech, and nonverbal communication.
According to the Centres for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated one in 54 children in the United States today. The data for Africa is limited.
“We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
“Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges.
“The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged,” APA says.
The CDC says some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.
Several factors may influence the development of autism, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and attention issues, researchers enthuse.
“Indicators of autism usually appear by age two or three.
“Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.
“Research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism,” CDC adds.