Nakuru County government will be compelled to construct special classrooms for children with autism, if a motion by Lake View Ward MCA Karanja Mburu is passed by the assembly.
In a motion he tabled at the assembly on Wednesday, Mr Karanja observed that many children with disabilities in pre-primary units in the county were dropping out of class due to unconducive school environments.
“Many of the early childhood development classes in the county lack equipment to handle children with special needs,” said Mr Karanja.
The MCA said that children with special needs such as autism should have a separate learning space that is appropriately modified and furnished with special equipment and learning materials.
“To accommodate the educational needs of autistic learners, there is need to establish and construct specific classrooms for such children,” added Mr Karanja.
If the motion is passed, the devolved unit will also be required to provide early and accurate diagnosis of autism, train and employ teachers and multidisciplinary personnel such as speech and occupational therapists.
Mr Karanja also wants the devolved unit to ensure that the personnel employed are trained in effective autism intervention techniques backed by science and research such as applied behaviour analysis and personalised educational plans.
The county government will also be required to have a referral system for severe autism cases besides establishing a committee to address non-compliance.
The devolved unit will also be mandated to check any violations with a view to mastering academic goals to ensure interventions are accessible.
“The motion seeks to ensure the children suffering from autism are not denied their basic human rights of acquiring inclusive education,” said Mr Karanja.
However, the county health department has no record of children with autism since most parents tend to hide them in their houses.
Autism is a development disorder of neurobiological origin that can have a lifelong effect in social interaction, ability to communicate ideas, feelings, imagination and establishment of relationships.
Mr Karanja observed that autism is one of the categories in special education and is a serious lifelong and disabling condition and without the right support, it can have a profound effect on individuals and families.
A survey by the global data research firm, GeoPoll who are experts in mobile data collection, there are no current prevalence rates of Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) data in Kenya.
However, the survey report released in February this year indicates that there has been an increase of cases of autism recorded over the years.
Diagnoses were made in various hospitals in the country with Kenyatta National Hospital having 14 per cent of the reported diagnoses. Approximately five per cent of the diagnoses were made at Nairobi Hospital and Aga Khan Hospital.
The survey revealed that 74 per cent of those who suffer from autism say they don’t get enough support from the government.
LACK OF DATA
GeoPoll experts in the health sector say that lack of data on autism in Kenya can prevent funding for financial assistance.
“Specifically designed educational programmes, and awareness campaigns are crucial. Initial data from this study shows the need for more research on autism in Kenya so that more inclusive programmes for those with autism can be developed over time,” states the latest GeoPoll and Kaizora study report on autism in Kenya.
According to World Health Organisation, one in 160 children in the globe has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASDs begin in childhood and tend to persist into adolescence and adulthood.
WHO says that while some people with ASDs can live independently, others have severe disabilities and require lifelong care and support.