Music therapy, going to the gym and teaching life skills is all part of the Autism center in Ghana, Africa. Participants of the Autism Awareness Care and Training (AACT) center used to go swimming, but were kicked out of numerous pools. The children can be hyper- or hypo-sensitive, to the point where a single touch may be too much for a child, or for others they may not be comfortable without enough something like a strong hug. Some experience difficulties with textures of food, so their diet may be very limited, and all of these things can create behavioral difficulties such as trouble with sound and/or lighting. It can be especially difficult for the children with autism to communicate about these difficulties, and so it is expressed in behavior. The country’s government does not financially support the center, which is one more great challenge for their work.
In Ghana, there is sometimes the cultural view that having a child with autism is a family curse. Worse still, the mother of an autism child can be viewed as a witch and shunned by her community. This can in part be compared to when in the United States parents of children with autism were once thought to be bad parents by experts of psychological establishment, like with “refrigerator moms“.
Serwah Quaynor is the founder and executive director of AACT. Ms. Quaynor is a mother of a child with autism. She once lived in the United States, but returned to Ghana in the late 1990’s with a commitment to help the children in there who have autism. She has her master’s degree in special education and speech pathology.