Parent leads charge for Autism awareness

Donnell Major-Fawkes is an ordinary mother raising an extraordinary child, as her four-year-old son Allen J is autistic, but extremely smart.

But while some have basic knowledge of the condition, Major-Fawkes said, she is on a mission to enlighten the Bahamian public about the disorder.

According to Fawkes, the limited awareness in the community is a great concern, as she’s now founded her own non-profit organization Families on the Spectrum Bahamas, to assist with funding for families who are dealing with children diagnosed with the disorder.

With just a handful of schools that specialize in education for the autistic, and only two certified specialists, Major-Fawkes said she hopes the government will refocus its efforts to help make it easier to raise a child with autism.

According to advocacy group, symptoms can develop in children from as early as 6-12 months of age.

Major-Fawkes said symptoms for early detection include impaired social interaction, little to no eye contact, failure to develop peer relationships, impaired communication skills, delay or lack of spoken language and restricted or repetitive behavior.

Boys are said to be five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed, according to statistics.

According to Dr. Carol Gibson – just one of two certified behavioural specialists in The Bahamas – the time frame needed with an autistic child is about five hours in her office. The cost, however, equates to the amount of attention needed during a session for a child.

Fees for sessions start at $100 per hour here at home.

It’s a cost Fawkes notes however, as one of many challenges she faces in her quest to help her son learn to speak.

Autism is a neurological disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.