15:15 PM

UHCL autism research, resources reach national audience in Nigeria


University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Telehealth ABA World Project has been empowering parents and professionals who work with children with autism around the world by connecting them with therapists who can provide interactive video services on the internet. The Project’s reach has extended to Nigeria, where the expertise of the Project’s Program Manager Loukia Tsami was shared on national television earlier this month.

“We have been offering resources and support to parents of children with autism in Nigeria for a long time,” Tsami said. “I was doing a virtual presentation in Liberia and I was seen by a Nigerian speech pathologist named Maryam Ibrahim, who works with autistic children there. She said I should offer this presentation in Nigeria as well.”

Tsami said that with the collaboration of Ibrahim and another colleague in the Oputu Learning Center and other community professionals, they were able to organize an event that brought in over 150 attendees.

Tsami said that her presentation, which discussed the inclusion of people with disabilities in healthcare, was shown on a nationally-televised news program—an indication of positive change for people with developmental disabilities in Nigeria.

“The name of the event was called, ‘Acceptance and Inclusion of Special Needs Children in Healthcare, the Classroom and Society,” she said. “The television media presence at the event was one of the first times this topic was ever discussed in a public forum. The event was shown on  both national Nigerian television in English, and in Kaduna, which is the capital of Kaduna State in northwest Nigeria, in the local language.”

She said that the main challenge in improving the lives of people with disabilities in Nigeria was simply education.

 “There is a strong stigma attached to people with disabilities, but the community seems to be changing,” she said. “I was talking about the power of including people with disabilities into the healthcare environment, and the fact that this topic was shown on national television to millions of viewers is very important. This way, our message had another level of reach and potential impact in a place where this information is still new.”

In her presentation, she spoke about the research being conducted at UH-Clear Lake, how it can be applied in different environments, and how it can be modified to apply in different cultures.

“Some are becoming more open to the idea of inclusion in schools and healthcare, but others are still puzzled by this,” she said. “We are sharing our knowledge and research with the world, particularly in places in which these messages are rarely if ever heard. The national TV coverage is important, but the fact that it happened in Nigeria is exceptional. Nigeria leads the continent of Africa; their impact is greater.”

Since 2015, the Telehealth ABA World Project has been passionate about bringing critical services via telehealth and resources to families and professionals who work with children with autism in over 34 countries, including in Mexico, Costa Rica, Greece, Cameroon, and Nigeria. The Project finds creative ways to offer services in locations that otherwise go without access.

Telehealth ABA World Project is an outreach of UHCL's Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. For more information, visit www.uhcl.edu/autism-center/.