My name is Jaki and at the age of 5, my son Arthur received an autism diagnosis. Despite following all my clinic days and doctor’s visits, no one mentioned anything was wrong and I was constantly told not to worry because boys speak late. Arthur was a happy child and met all his other milestones as expected; he walked/ ran a day before his first birthday, he was bubbling with sounds and I was often asked who I was speaking with as the two of us were noisy. he slept well and fed well. At age 3, he still had not spoken and became quiet with frequent meltdowns. We finally received our diagnosis from an Education Psychologist visiting from Swaziland. This was a confusing time and I did not know what to do.
In 2014 and 2015, I was a Vital Voices Fellow. In group discussions with the ladies in the fellowship program I would talk about the work that I was doing for my employer then. However during dinner and when we were just in a relaxed atmosphere, the thing that I would talk about was Autism; the difficulties that autistic children and parents have in Africa and the lack of solutions.
After a couple of these conversations, a few of the ladies told me to stop telling them about my employer and that that what they wanted to hear going forward was about my own organization. It was obvious, they said, that my heart and passion was in finding solutions for mothers like me. One of these ladies was Agnes Fallah- Kamara Umunna who together with Regina Fallah- Hausmann, sat with me over coffee on a kitchen counter to listen to my dream. This kicked me into action and I started wondering, if I had my organization that addressed issues to do with Autism in Africa what would I want to do?
In the process of defining ADAT Foundation’s Vision it became apparent that there were three challenges that I had encountered as a parent with an autistic child. The first one was getting a diagnosis for my child; Second was finding placement and therapies for my child in schools and the third was dismantling the stigma that comes with the diagnosis.
These 3 areas now define the work ADAT does in partnership with parents. At the core of our mission is empowering parents to do for themselves and their children the things that will ensure these children live their best lives and become the best versions of themselves they can be.
Jaki Mathaga – ADAT Team Lead