By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) has pleaded that persons and organizations should help in tapping and developing the potentials of people living autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Mr. Segun Agbaja, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the bank, made the plea at the 8th edition of the bank’s Annual Autism Conference held from 17th to 18th July, 2018 at MUSON Centre, Lagos.
He described the theme: “Raising A Child With Autism – The Role Of The Family And Community” as apt. This is because of its ability to guide and enable the sharing of ideas on how to build the expertise, resources and skills required for effective management of autism.
As Agbaje highlighted, “People with autism have the capacity to learn, grow and lead meaningful lives.”
According to him, children and adults living with autism “just need to be provided with appropriate and timely support to enable them achieve their life-long potentials. “That is why we must continue to inspire communities near and far to not only accept, but also to embrace individuals with autism into their lives and into society,” he emphasized.
The GTBank leader also enumerated the successes so far garnered from the annual conference. He said: “Today, more than 10,000 people have participated in our annual autism conference, we have trained over 14,000 people on how to manage autism and 3,200 children have benefitted from our free one-on-one consultation services.
This journey if building a more inclusive and supportive society for children and adults living with autism, Agbaje recollected, started seven years ago.
He also disclosed that to the credit of autism awareness campaigns, there has been a steady and significant increase in social consciousness of people towards supporting, and not stigmatizing, people living with autism.
He, however, pointed out that there are still “some ways to go, especially when it comesd to better understanding of how to cater to the dynamic needs of children living with autism,” particularly about harnessing their talents.
Agbaje explained that the essence of GTBank’s autism programme is to build a more inclusive and supportive society for victims of the spectrum disorder. Another is that the bank is leading the campaign against the stigmatization of children and adults suffering from the disease.
According to him, GTBank has advocated that people living with autism should receive greater assistance, and, has, therefore, created a platform to support them in their every day life.
The GTBank chief noted that autism being a life-long challenge, any person living with it would face unique sets of hurdles at every stage of life.
Although many would be able to count on the care and affection of their parents and families, they all would need the support and understanding whether as caregivers, friends, neighbours, teachers pr concerned members of the public, Agbaje added.
“Hence”, he charged, “it falls to all of us in whatever capacity – corporate citizens, the public sector, NGOs, healthcare experyts, caregivers and concerned members of the community to create solid and sustainable support systems that empower children living with autism and help them thrive.
Agbaje expressed hope that the 2018n autism conference theme would be a constant reminder to stakeholders that children living with autism are ultimately children.
“Like every other kid, they have big dreams, amazing talents and incredible potentials to contribute to our society,” he stressed. “They are just as much the leaders of tomorrow, and it is our cresponsibility to ensure that they reach their full potential.”