Dr. Olufunmilayo Adesanya, the founder of Waterspouts Remedial Therapy, an organisation that works with individuals with diverse conditions and managing children with autism as well as other related disabilities, in this interview with YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE speaks on challenges in the care of children with special needs, cultural impediments in care of special need individuals, women striving for financial independence and why women may be more suited to special needs treatment, among other issues.
CAN you tell us who Dr Olufunmilayo Adesanya is and your journey into treatment of children with special needs?
I received my B.Sc (Ed) Economics degree from the Lagos State University in 1995; received my master’s degree in Special Education (Learning Disabilities) from the University of Ibadan in 2008 and went further to obtain my Ph.D. degree in 2019 from the University on Ibadan. In 2003, a group of professionals from Colombia University in New York came to Nigeria to organise the first workshop on using applied strategic science of teaching on methods, approaches and interventions to manage, teach and make the lives of individuals with disabilities better, I was part of the workshop.
Before opening the Waterspouts Remedial Therapy Centre in 2013, I had worked with other trained therapists under Dr. Helen Nwanze, a speech pathologist and child psychologist from 2004 –2007 using teaching and therapeutic intervention programmes with individuals with special needs; autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, Downs Syndrome and I also attended the Acceleration Therapy training course on techniques of managing children with autism and related disabilities with an insight into Autistic Spectrum Adapted Programme (ASAP) in July 2005.
What else have you done in this field?
I also personally carried out extensive researches on individuals with learning disabilities which involve using whole language and jolly phonics in teaching phonologically disabled pupils. This study examined the problem associated with the ability to process phonological information confronting pupils with learning disabilities in primary schools and sought possible remedies with the use of jolly phonics and whole language approach in enhancing their reading skills. Thirty participants screened to be learning disabled were used in the study and from three primary schools in Ikorodu environs. The most recent research carried out was using instructional strategies which are the independent variables –directed reading- thinking activity and anticipation guide (cognitive approach) to teach English comprehension to pupils with learning disabilities. 75 participants were selected from three public schools: Model Primary School, Ikorodu LGA, Maidun Primary School in Kosofe, and Agoro, Shomolu. The dependent variable was an enhanced Reading Comprehension Achievement in 2017.
You are a specialist in children with learning disability, autism and other special needs conditions, What does this entail?
First and foremost, you need to be passionate about the job because there is a great need to be met. It is necessary to provide adequate procedures for teaching skills and content area such as reading, mathematics, oral and written expression, social and study skill for children with these conditions. The job of a specialist requires that one should select the most adequate procedure for teaching these types of children and why.
What is a day in your professional life like?
A day with children with LD, autism and other special needs requires patience and having the right attitude. There are tendencies to see a lot of impossibilities at the beginning but with time, children will demonstrate new knowledge and skills that were taught.
What challenges do you encounter?
The major challenge is stigmatisation and discrimination. The society is still not ready to cope with children with these conditions. Fund is also another challenge which has led to an obstacle in their educational achievement. Everywhere in the world, where children with special needs are taken care of, their fees always double when compared with children without disabilities.
Do you have issues with cultural and traditional bias about autism?
In our society, children with these conditions are thought to be possessed by demons, while others are tagged as witches. This attitude has not been favourable for the development of these children
How would you rate sensitisation about this condition?
The rate of publicity and sensitisation going on in the country is not enough. Parents with such children are not well informed on how to cope or what to do about their situation.
Do you think women are more suited to handle autism cases?
Women are said to have motherly instinct and empathy when working with such children while these are needed, research has revealed that achievement in the educational performance of such children can be effected by teaching and learning styles.
How does funding affect what you do?
Fund is the major determinant of achievement with children living with these conditions. Teaching children with developmental conditions requires intensive instructional strategies, training of personnel and educational materials
Which aspect of what you do is most enjoyable to you?
It is a thing of joy when such children start to manifest what they have been taught. Getting the expected result is enjoyable.
How can you sensitise the public on issues bordering on autism and special needs?
There is a need to create more awareness on issues relating to developmental disabilities. Children with these conditions should be diagnosed at an early age and the correct treatment should be given. This is one of the reasons we are organising an awareness programme which is going to include a free assessment/diagnosis, seminar, exhibition of educational materials and walk in my community, Ikorodu. The programme is titled Live Out Loud and will take place between May 4 to 8, 2020.
What are your thoughts on women striving for financial independence?
Judging by the economic situation in Nigeria, it is very important for women to be financially independent. Apart from the fact that it lessens the burden on men, some crucial decisions concerning the children will be taken care of before the man arrives. I will encourage such women not to relent in their effort; in whatever area they find themselves, they should strive hard.
What is your opinion on the spate of abuses, especially of children and women?
Regarding the abuse on children and women in the country now, I sincerely think that the concerned authorities are not doing enough to protect them. Our children are our tomorrow and when you build a woman, you are building a nation.
Do you train volunteers to make the work easier?
Yes, we train volunteers
How do you avoid getting overwhelmed?
I always try to take some time off work to relax. Reading and socialising also help to release work stress.
Would you say dealing with children with this challenge is a profitable venture for practitioners?
I love working with children. They are so easy to work with than adults. Children are quick to manifest the knowledge and skills that they have learnt.
What are the challenges you face as a business owner?
Fund is a major challenge. Not having the right peg in the right hole is another. A lot of unqualified people are working with these children because of the money involved, but they are not rendering the correct services.
What is your guiding principle?
My guiding principle is patience and hardwork.
How long have you been into this?
About 16 years