World Autism Awareness Day

April 2 of every year has been declared by the United Nations as World Autism Awareness Day. This forms part of an effort to encourage its member states to raise awareness, promote acceptance and appreciate autistic people.

This celebration resonates with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Member states of the United Nations, in 2015, adopted a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is at the heart of this blueprint, is a universal call to action to end poverty and protect the planet.

It also aims to ensure that by 2030, all people enjoy peace and prosperity. There are 17 SDGs that aim to make this call to action possible. However, there are specific goals that echo profoundly with the annual celebration of World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), given the hurdles faced by autistic people in a world where being different can be a challenge.

Specific SDGs

Specific SDGs that resonate with WAAD are SDG 3 (Health and Well-being), SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequality).

Autistic persons, just like all other people, deserve to get better healthcare services. They often benefit from specific intervention that help them to have a better quality of life.

Accessing services for them in Ghana can be difficult. Apart from limited professionals who provide needed services for autistic persons, there is also stigma and discrimination that hugely impact their well- being. Professionals who support autistic persons include speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, neuro paediatricians, among others.

Currently, the availability of these professionals and services are woefully inadequate thereby impacting the health and well-being of autistic persons in Ghana. Another SDG that is relevant to autistic persons is quality education. Quality education means education that is tailored to meet the needs of each autistic person.

Given that each autistic person is unique in their own way, it is important that they receive education that is appropriate to them. This is currently lacking in the Ghanaian educational system where mainstream schools have little to no support for autistic persons.

In Ghana, teachers in mainstream schools have not been trained to support autistic children in their classrooms. Even special schools often lack the professionals and appropriate training to provide quality education for autistic persons in Ghana.


Given the challenge of providing autistic persons with quality education, they are often faced with the hurdle of gaining decent employment and being financially independent. Most autistic adults in Ghana find it difficult to be employed by mainstream workplaces, as employers and companies discriminate against them.

Coupled with this, is the issue of lack of awareness of what autism really is and the reasonable adjustments that can be made in the workplace to make use of their talents and abilities.

As a result, most autistic adults, who otherwise could have worked independently, continue to depend on their families to survive. Advocacy for autistic persons must include workplace inclusivity where autistic adults are given opportunities in the labour market to contribute their skills.

One of the many challenges faced by autistic persons relates to inequalities in all spheres of life. Autistic persons are often alienated and stigmatized thereby isolating them from mainstream society. This is why SDG 10 relates to efforts to reduce inequalities faced by autistic persons, which efforts include advocacy and awareness creation.

For autistic persons to participate fully in society whiles enjoying equal opportunities, there is the need for society to understand autism. The lack of understanding has a devastating effect on autistic persons and their families.

In Ghana, there are significant barriers to receiving a diagnosis and having access to interventions for autistic persons and other neurological conditions. As part of WAAD this year, each Ghanaian is being called upon to learn about what autism is and to change behaviours towards autistic persons so that they too can have a good quality of life, like you and me!

The writers are Speech and Language Therapists/Clinical Tutors, University of Ghana.

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