A Masters student at the University of South Wales has set up a school for autistic children in his home country of Uganda.
Fredrick Sembatya, who will graduate from the MA in Autism in September, devotes his time to raising awareness of autism in the East African country, where very little is known about the spectrum disorder.
He teaches parents the skills and interventions they can use with their children by organising workshops and providing them with helpful resources, as well as writing articles in the local press and regularly appearing on TV shows to talk about autism.
Fredrick is currently writing a guide for parents and guardians as well as medical professionals, in order to provide an insight into autism within literature that is widely available to the community.
He has now helped several children and young adults from the age of three to 21, in areas such as special needs education, behavioural management, social skills training and self-help skills, as well as speech, language and communication.
Many of them are now communicating well, with some attending mainstream school settings. “I feel blessed whenever I change the life of someone with autism,” Fredrick said. “I hope that my guide will give direction to parents, teachers and medical professionals in Uganda on how to work with autistic children and young adults.”
The University of South Wales is one of the only institutions in the UK to offer a Masters degree in Autism. Fredrick had the opportunity to study the degree after winning a scholarship, and says it was a ‘dream come true’. “Autism is one of the most challenging conditions in the world, with no known cause or cure,” he said. “These challenges leave communities such as those in Uganda with very few people knowing about autism, who are left with no choice but to rely on traditional or non-evidence based approaches to define, diagnose and manage it.”
Thanks to his studies at the University of South Wales, Fredrick was able to learn about some of the evidence-based interventions that can be used to help children and young people with autism. “Because of the lack of information on autism in Uganda, some parents resort to using ‘witchcraft’ as a means of managing the condition, because they wrongly believe their children are possessed by demons,” he said. “That is why it is vitally important that more is done to educate communities about autism and prevent parents from using the services of ‘witch doctors’ for spiritual interventions.
“I am so grateful to the University for shaping my career and my future. My studies have enabled me to change the lives of people with autism as well as their families.”
Fredrick and his students appeared on NTV television earlier this month when they took part in a sports gala, demonstrating what children with autism can achieve in the world of sport and providing more information about the disorder. For more details on Fredrick’s work at the Teens and Tots Neuro Development centre in Uganda, visit www.teensandtotscenter.co.ug.