Autism in Ethiopia
Autism is just as challenging in Ethiopia as it is in the rest of the world. But when autism is linked to poverty, the affected families have to carry an unbearable burden. Many parents of autistic children split up, leaving mostly single mothers behind to stay with their kids. As a consequence, these women often suffer from depression. With a long-term exchange between autism experts from Germany and Ethiopia, we want to promote the professional expertise in the field of autism, regarding therapy and treatment possibilities. We also aim at strengthening Ethiopian families with autistic children.
In Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, there are three centers that support autistic children and yet another therapy center in Hawassa (around 300km south of Addis Ababa) has been opened in the meantime. But these are the only institutions of this kind in the whole country. Each of these centers was founded on the self-initiative of mothers with autistic children and they are all working as officially recognized NGOs today. In the Nehemiah Autism Center, about 60 children are being educated by about 20 caretakers. Around a thousand names of other children are on the waiting lists of these institutions, hoping for support in one of these centers.
During our research, we visited all three autism centers in Addis Ababa, and we learned what was mostly lacking: specialist qualification and continuing education of the staff working in these institutions. Today, for psychologists, remedial teachers, social education workers or educators there is still no existing professional training with a practical orientation focusing on autism. Currently, only one generally oriented course of study to become a special needs teacher is available.
After almost one year of research and talks, we were very happy to finally have found a suitable project partner here in Germany willing to do the project together with us: The association Autismus KölnBonn e.V. was founded by mothers of autistic children as well more than 30 years ago. Today they are running three therapy centers in Cologne and three further centers in the cities of Bonn, Siegburg and Bergisch Gladbach.
Brochure: “Information: Autism Spectrum”
In Ethiopian society, autism still is a huge stigma and discrimination against people affected by autism is widespread. In many places in Ethiopia, the causes for all mental disturbances are seen as a sort of curse – many people believe it to be “a punishment from God”. Therefore, it is not only very important to promote the support and care for autistic children, but also to increase knowledge and awareness in Ethiopian society regarding mental disorders.
Hence, we have been working on an information brochure titled “Information: Autism Spectrum”. The content of the brochure has been set up in close cooperation with the associations Autismus Köln/Bonn (e.V) and Landesverband Autismus NRW (e.V.) and then translated into Amharic in coordination with the Nehemiah Autism Center in Addis Ababa.
The brochure will be handed out to interested visitors, for example, at the “Autism-Awareness-Day” that is annually taking place in Addis Ababa. The handout is supposed to be a first and crucial source of information for parents of autistic children in Ethiopia.
>> DOWNLOAD BROSCHURE amharic (t.b.a.)
>> DOWNLOAD BROSCHURE german(t.b.a.)