Michael Gebeh, Deputy Director for Administration at the Arthur and Zwannah First Autism School, has called on philanthropists and the government to help contribute to the well-being of autistic children and the smooth running of the institution.
Autism is a complex developmental disorder that primarily affects the human brain and it is characterized by the inability of the affected persons to develop communication skills and normal social interactions, thereby hampering learning and other behaviors, according to a definition.
Mr. Gebeh, who spoke to the Daily Observer recently in Monrovia, said if the Arthur and Zwannah Autism School is well supported by the national government and humanitarian groups, it will help create more awareness and enhance autism therapy as well as improve interaction for persons living with the disability.
“We are calling on humanitarian people to also support this initiative, because let us consider that these children who are the target groups need medical attention, vehicles and other assistance that will help us a lot in transforming their lives,” he said.
“These children,” according to Mr. Gebeh, can be worked on or provide skills training as well as contribute to their own welfare, if they are trained.
He added, “though you may not have them behave like a normal human beings, at least you will have them functioning very well, because the training will help them contribute to their own welfare and, by extension, it will help society.”
Gebeh said that children with such challenges have lived in stigma, fear and as such have been denied education and equal parental love like the rest of the non-autistic children, but with the establishment of the institution in Liberia, we are trying our best to help them to overcome such challenges.”
“It is time for all of us to accept children living with autism and give them the adequate resources needed to help them live an enabling life and that is why the Arthur and Zwannah Autism School has introduced a lot of awareness in communities to bring on these children on board.
“For us at the school, our most cherished asset is the education and improved life of children living with autism and so we give them our best. We, therefore, develop programs to suit their interest,” he said.
Mr. Gebeh said that there were many parents who were keeping their autistic children at home for fear of being stigmatized and urged such parents to send their children to the school.
He also commended Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor for contributing to the institution and called for the support of individuals, philanthropists, and institutions to come to their aid.
Gebeh said as part of the institution’s own way of transforming the lives of these children, they are also training social and psycho-social workers to help cater to them.
Sonie Yassah Kennedy, a of the parent of an autistic child, commended the Arthur and Zwannah Autism School for their efforts because she said the school has helped to build the confidence of the children and given hope to the parents that their children have unique talents that can be developed.
The school, which is established in the facility of Abundance Grace School in Paynesville by a local non-governmental organization, “Straight from the Heart (SFTH)” is currently catering to 25 autistic children.
Meanwhile, the organization is supported by Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.