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A widower, Ben Nyarigi's fight with the challenge of autism

By Brigid Chemweno | August 19th 2015

Ben Nyarigi, a widower has vowed never to remarry in order to dedicate his time to his only son Teddy Nyarigi, who is autistic.

A month after welcoming their first born child into the world, Teddy’s mother passed on due to childbirth complications.

Ben says, “When my wife passed on, I vowed to raise our child with the care he deserves. At the age of four, I realised that my son was autistic. He was very hostile and could not relate well with people. He could also not speak and was unable to feed himself.”

Ben says it is has not been easy taking care of Teddy all by himself. It requires a lot of sacrifice since he has to be close to him all the time, giving him the attention he requires.

“Despite his disability, I have committed myself to giving him the best in life. I want him to get quality education like other children and have taken him through three different schools since he requires special education.

"Sadly most schools do not have facilities for children with special needs and it was a huge sigh of relief for me when I eventually came across Orione Community Centre, in Kandisi, Ongata Rongai,” he says.

The charity centre was founded by Priest Fr Alejandro Ruiz of the Holy Spirit Kandisi Catholic Church, to help children with special needs acquire skills to make them self-reliant.

Ben says he is happy because his son receives the attention he requires from the teachers and says he has seen a real improvement.

“There has been a marked improvement since I enrolled Teddy at this centre four months ago. He can now eat on his own and can relate well with people. It is unfortunate that parents do not have confidence in their autistic children and they do not believe that taking them to learning institutions can improve their state,” he said.

According to Counselling Psychologist Ken Munyua, autism is a mental disorder that is present from early childhood. It is characterised by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.

“It is important for a parent taking care of an autistic child to get the support they need. This is not an act of selfishness but of necessity. Being emotionally strong allows you to be the best parent to your special-needs child,” he says.

Mr Munyua said a child with autism exhibits various symptoms including lack of response to noises or familiar voices, limited eye movement, no smiles even when tickled, no reaction to cuddling, no gestures, no reaching out to be picked and an aversion to playing and making noise.

He however, said there are various misconceptions surrounding this disorder. “A parent should seek help as soon as they see unusual behaviour in their child instead of waiting to see whether the child will outgrow the problem. The earlier children with autism get help, the greater their chances of success in treatment. Early intervention is the most effective way to speed up your child’s development,” he says.

While a complete cure is not possible, Munyua says there are various treatment interventions that can be used to help reduce symptoms of autism and urges parents to learn as much as they can about the disorder.

“Accepting your child as they are without making comparisons is key,” the therapist says.

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