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Creating a Worldwide Movement for Autism Acceptance

Why is April such an important month? If you put on blue this April you had a bigger impact that you know in creating a worldwide movement for autism acceptance.

How much blue did you see in April? We hope it was a lot. April is the month when parents, children, advocates and even monuments, don their best blues and stand together to celebrate autism. For many countries, who have celebrated for decades, it is easy to take this month for granted, but some countries are celebrating for the first time.

One of those is Uganda. In Uganda, autism remains widely unknown and remarkably undiagnosed. In fact local language has no word for autism. Instead they label these children words like “Zonto” meaning “cursed” or “possessed”. Still today most children with autism are hidden inside their homes, tied to bed posts to prevent wandering, and subject to inhumane traditional healing practices and exorcism.

The movement for autism is in its infancy, not just in Uganda but throughout sub-Saharan Africa. While in other countries we battle for access to therapies and acceptance, in Uganda we battle for basic human rights.

“In Uganda, most people don’t know about autism,” Antonnate Amooti Nyangoma, a mother of a girl with autism, announced in a speech at an autism event. “Some think it’s witchcraft. Others assume someone in the family has delayed speech or is a slow learner. But if we join hands, the few who understand autism, I believe we will help many who are being insulted, abused, and kept hidden in homes.”

“Knowing the world celebrates this day means a lot here,” said embraceKulture Founder Christa Preston. “Many parents in Uganda think they are the only ones with a child with autism. They think it is a condition that exists only in Africa. When they find out it is in other places they don’t feel alone anymore. They have hope.”

embraceKulture hosted the largest autism awareness celebration in Uganda in April 2017 celebrated in conjunction with the first Inclusive Rugby event. Children of all abilities joined together with national rugby players for a day filled of fun, education and acceptance for all.

National Rugby Player Wandicho John helped spearhead the event. “Inclusive rugby spreads awareness so I hoped people would get to understand these children and how to deal with them which I think is lacking in our society,” he said. “I also hoped the kids would gain self-confidence but most importantly have so much fun.”

“This is our second event and incredibly important in efforts to increase awareness,” Christa continued. “Last year ten children were identified because of the information shared at the event. This year we know more parents have been sensitized and more children will be integrated into the community.”

For all those who celebrated this April, let this serve as a reminder that when we put on blue we all stand as one to create a world of acceptance.

embraceKulture is an organization based in Entebbe, Uganda with a mission to create a world where all children are embraced and accepted. embraceKulture develops innovative technology solution used in conjunction with traditional awareness events to spread awareness and empower members of the community to lead change.

Christa Preston
Executive Director, embraceKulture

This is a modified version of a 2017 press release distributed by embraceKulture.

The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.

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