NEW YORK, 25 September 2018 (PSCU)- First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has called for the acceptance, inclusion and equitable opportunities for children living with disabilities especially Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Speaking during the 10th Annual World Focus on Autism in New York on Tuesday, the First Lady noted that one of the greatest challenges facing children living with disability in Kenya and in many other countries is that they are still being hidden or denied the right to care, health and education.
“In many instances, parents do not have enough knowledge or funds to support children with disabilities,” she said.
The theme of this year’s annual event is ‘Autism and Sustainable Development Goals; A new Era of opportunities.’
Autism is a pervasive neuro-developmental condition which affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.
People with autism may have a difficult time understanding typical social behaviors and challenges engaging with those around them, either by using words or non-verbal communication. The causes of Autism are not known.
Most common signs of the disorder include delay or difficult learning languages, rapidly repetitive body movements and lack of interest or deficits in developing and maintaining peer appropriate relationships and delayed development of social skills.
The First Lady said diagnosis of autism is difficult because of scarce facilities for testing the disorder.
“As a result (of scarcity of testing facilities), many children are being left behind in the realisation of their fundamental rights,” she said at the ceremony where she was joined by her counterparts from Cyprus and Serbia Ms Andri Anastasiades and Ms Tamara Vucic respectively.
The First Lady said the prevalence of Autism and many other intellectual disabilities has not been well captured in many developing countries including Kenya.
“Lack of data has made it challenging to quantify the extent of the problem (autism) in Kenya, and I expect this to be the same for many low to middle income countries,” the Kenyan First Lady observed.
She said disability, especially among children, is one area she is committed to address as a key intervention for the next five years through her Beyond Zero Foundation.
“I have therefore committed, through my Beyond Zero Strategic Framework 2018 to 2022, to advocate for data collection as an immediate action for children with disability,” she said.
Besides data collection, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta is also advocating for the registration, integration and facilitation of children living with disability to access health services and social protection.
She said this work has already started through the recently launched medical safaris and camps which offer specialised services to assess affected children.
“We will work with communities to address the cultural narratives that undermine fairness, tolerance and inclusion within individual families and communities,” said the First Lady.
She said under the new health service delivery medical safari model, Beyond Zero will promote initiatives that support specialised training such as the Skills Training Program for caregivers of children with developmental disorders.
“It is my hope that we will embrace our special children; that we will love and accept them and that we will let them take their place in the world,” she said.
Later, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta joined other First Ladies from across the world at the Fashion 4 Development (F4D) 8th annual luncheon to celebrate the progress made through positive social change worldwide in support of the UN SDGs.
During the ceremony, F4D Founder Evie Eangelou presided over the presentation of awards of honor to various leading celebrities for their outstanding humanitarian work and service.