We're Here to Listen
We're Here to Listen
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How Sierra Leone Autistic Society Began
Sierra Leone Autistic Society (SLAS) started in 2014 as a Community Based Organisation (CBO) with its main aim of sensitisation. A family from the UK came to Sierra Leone with their daughter who was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), after visiting every secondary school in the capital city of Freetown, as well as the ministry of education, they realised that there was no school that could meet their child’s needs, and no effective service for people with ASD and other developmental disabilities in the whole country. It was quickly realised that the work needed to expand, and as such, SLAS became a national Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in 2017.
SLAS is founded by two women (Mary Penn-Timity and Alice Browne); Mary is a dual citizen of Sierra Leone/UK . She has a BSC (Hons) in Pharmacology with immunology, Post-graduate certificate in Analytical with forensic chemistry and Masters in Social Work with specialisation in mental health as well as children and families and also a mum to a child with severe autism. Alice is also a dual citizen of Sierra Leone/USA. She received her BS in Psychology, Masters in Social Work with primary concentration of clinical and secondary concentration of Management and Community Organisation (MACO) with specialisation in families and children. She is also a License mental health therapist who has experience of working in different settings.
They are both very passionate about the mental well being of the child and adolescent population as well as education. Because of their beliefs and passion, they opened up the first inclusive school for children with developmental disabilities. Browne- Penn Special Education school (BPSS) located in Wellington, Freetown Sierra Leone. They believe that “Every child matters” and together, they believe they can make a difference in Sierra Leone with their vast knowledge and expertise they have in Mental Health especially working with children with special needs and disabilities. Together, both Mary and Alice have experience of working with children with developmental disabilities (particularly those with autism), their families and care givers in various settings.
The mission statement of the organisation is to enhance the well being of people living with disabilities (particularly developmental disabilities), their parents and caregivers through advocacy, empowerment, research, training and bio psycho-social (health, psychological and social), as well as educational support.
Motto: Put the Ability into Disability
What is Autism?
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication.*
We now know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, and each person with autism can have unique strengths and challenges.
There is currently no known cause of autism , and autism is often accompanied by medical issues such as:
Many people with autism also have sensory issues. These can include aversions to certain sights, sounds and other sensations.
Autism’s hallmark signs usually appear by age 2 to 3. Often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier.
· In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association merged four distinct autism diagnoses into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They included autism spectrum disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.
EARLY INTERVENTION CAN CHANGE LIVES.
Learn the Signs
One of the most important things you can do as a parent or caregiver is to learn the early signs of autism and become familiar with the typical developmental milestones that your child should be reaching.
The timing and severity of autism’s early signs vary widely. Some infants show hints in their first months. In others, symptoms become obvious as late as age 2 or 3.
Not all children with autism show all the signs. Many children who don’t have autism show a few. That’s why professional evaluation is crucial.
The following "red flags" may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, please don’t delay in asking your paediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation:
Autism Speaks (https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism)
Autism is not related to:
· Devil/Demonic Possession
· Cheating Wives
Sierra Leone Autistic Society aids access to:
• Assessment and diagnostics
• Educational support: Browne-Penn Special Education School (BPSS)
• Nationwide Sensitisation
Our campaign on Autism
Our experiences enable us to offer effective monthly school visits and give talks to schools about autism, encourage children to treat everyone the same and also how to look after and care for those with disabilities.
Please sign up for our up coming programmes, event and any other information you may want to know about our journey and also if you share the same passion we have in making Sierra Leone a better place for autistic children and their families.
Medical support for children. Our doctor giving treatment and medicine to children during parent support group.
Disability Africa (DA): Our partner organisation in the UK provides wide range of services for individuals with disabilities. SLAS and DA are working together in implementing the Sierra Leone Inclusion Project in Freetown and Makeni.
Art class in Browne-Penn, children engaged in all sort of art activities, in this photo, children were getting ready to display their artistic potential at the British Council on World Autism Day, where they displayed their talents (art works) during their art exhibition.
Our Partners and supporters provide trainings, resources (play and teaching resources), as well as funds sometimes to do key activities.
We are registered with key Government Ministries as we work to complement Government's efforts.
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Registered NGO in Sierra Leone (MOPED) NNGO/715