KAMPALA — Children with autism are demanding for inclusive education and services arguing that the special needs and inclusive education department is plagued with limited support for their needs.
In their petition to the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga on 23 January 2010, the children represented by New Life Foundation Uganda called for increased budgetary allocations to facilitate their mandate.
The Director, New Life Foundation, Susan Kwizera said that the one per cent budget allocation to the Special Needs and Inclusive Education department denies children with autism access to specialised education.
“This means a large number of children with autism remain illiterate and unskilled,” she said.
Kwizera urged the Speaker to ensure that the educational needs for children with autism are catered for in the new curriculum.
Cynthia Pacuto, a volunteer with New Life Foundation called for training of therapists to handle children with autism.
She said that shortage of professional therapists for autistic children in the country poses a great challenge in the development of these children.
“Kampala is lucky; everyone congregates here but what about in villages where children are tied on trees and locked up in houses without therapists. We need to have therapists in villages” she said.
She suggested that government sponsors training of therapists in Ghana which she said has some of the best facilities in Africa.
Hon. Hellen Grace Asamo (NRM, PWD Eastern) blamed the continued marginalisation of children with special needs on failure by government to pass the policy on special needs which she said has been in the Ministry of Education for over 15 years.
“Special needs and inclusiveness in education are different. You cannot put children with autism in an inclusive environment and you think they will study. You need to put them in a special area. We had included all these recommendations in the policy,” she said.
Asamo asked the Speaker to compel the Minister of Education to ensure that the policy comes into force, saying that it was put on hold without a clear justification.
“The policy had even reached cabinet and all stakeholders had been consulted. There are now fears that we will be asked to start the policy formulation process afresh which means we shall take 30 years making a policy,” Asamo said.
Kadaga said that the issue on including educational needs of children with autism in the curriculum will be addressed when the Minister of Education presents the new school curriculum.
“Fortunately, we have asked for new information about the curriculum and this is an opportunity for us to raise this issue because I am sure it has probably not been captured,” she said.
Kadaga asked Hon. Asamo who is also the Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Committee to examine the demands of children with autism further and report to Parliament.
“I want to propose that the Chairperson of the Equal Opportunity Committee summons the ministers responsible so that the matter can be discussed comprehensively then they bring it to the House for us to debate,”
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and non-verbal communication. Each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges.