At the Autism Community of Africa Gala in DC

The Embassy of Ivory Coast in Washington DC played host to the 2009 annual gala of the Autism Community of Africa. The executive Director of Autism community of Africa; Brigitte Kobenan explained that the community was founded to create awareness about the challenges faced by Autistic children and young adults in Africa and create an avenue for resources to provide the neccesary care.

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurobiological condition that impairs the learning process of children and adults. Autistic children and adults often have trouble interacting with others and are frequently more interested in objects than people.

Mothers of Autistic children; Brigette Kobenan and Dawn Cooper Barnes, wife of the Liberian Ambassador in Washington shared their experiences about Autism and the African perception. Barnes explained that children in Africa living with autism may be thought to be possessed by demons. She added that there was a great need for enlightenment.

Remarks were also made by Jeff Sell, VP World Autism Organization, Jeannine B. Scott, VP Africare and Linord Moudou, Founder Racines Heritage.

Below are excerpts from the keynote address delivered by Dawn Cooper Barnes.

Parents usually notice signs of autism in the first two years of their child’s life.  The signs usually develop gradually, but some autistic children first develop normally and then regress.  Although early behavioral or cognitive intervention can help autistic children gain self-care, social and communication skills, there is no known cure.  Not many children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood although there are exceptions.  An autistic culture has developed with some researchers seeking a cure while others believe autism should be tolerated as difference and not treated as a disorder.

Over the years, we have been through a range of medications to control impulsive, repetitive and disruptive behaviors.  None of the medicines are perfect and all of them come with side effects.  We are in a constant struggle to balance the improved behavior with the damaging side effects.  My rule is to medicate only if it becomes absolutely necessary and, trust me, we have had our absolute moments.

Those of us who come from traditional African families must be very grateful.  In our Liberian culture, even in the U.S. we were blessed to have a close-knit extended family.  I cannot imagine what we would have done if we did not have my mother, Nat’s parents, our siblings, and even our great extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles, as well as family friends that went back for generations.  Liberians love family and we often could not have made it without a loving family.  Wherever we, as Africans, go, I sincerely pray that we do not lose that sense of the village raising the children, which for me, is the most wonderful thing about being an African.

A tribute was also made in honor of Julius E. Coles, President Africare for his significant contribution to providing help and assistance to the people of Africa. The Julius E. Coles Humanitarian Award will be given at ACA annual gala starting from 2010.

By Damilola Odetola for Trendy Africa. Trendy Africa is a Multi Media Production Company based in Texas and are Publishers of Trendy Africa Magazine, Trendy Africa Fashion Xtra and 




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.