Understanding Autism
Unveiling autism spectrum: Path to understanding and change

Dr Msuya, one of the best researchers in the field, answers a question that is commonly asked by parents – “Why did my child develop autism?” It’s a question that most parents ask all the time – “What did I do wrong?”, “How could I have prevented it?”

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Dr Msuya tries to clarify something that most people don’t realize. She explains that Autism is not a singular condition but rather a spectrum of disorders. Unlike Malaria or the common flu, which have predictable symptoms, Autism presents itself in various forms. There’s even a famous quote that has been used to describe Autism – “If you’ve met a child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. One Autistic child may have totally different behavioral severity and traits from another Autistic child.

For a clear picture, Dr Msuya gives an example of Abigail and Drew. Abigail is a mathematical prodigy who can recall dates and numbers with ease, she even has advanced language abilities.

However, when it comes to social interactions, she struggles immensely. For example she has difficulty with eye contact and initiating conversations. Sometimes, in social settings, she feeling odd one out, and in stressful situations, she struggles to process her emotions. That is Abigail, an Autistic child on one end of the spectrum.

On the other hand, let’s examine Drew. Drew is also Autistic but exhibits very different traits. Drew is Non-verbal, meaning he has difficulty communicating with words. He may be able to say some one-syllable words but not enough to make a sentence. Drew has self-injurious behaviors, such as hitting himself or biting his hand when he is frustrated.

He also has sensory issues, meaning he may be overstimulated by loud noises and bright lights. Both of these kids are Autistic, but Abigail is on the furthest end of the high-functioning scale.

Creating a safe and trusting environment 

Having witnessed the stigma faced by the Autism community, Dr Msuya-Lasway is a strong advocate for societal transformation and changing perceptions related to this neurodevelopmental disorder. She firmly believes that individuals with Autism see the world differently, but this does not make an Autistic person any lesser.

In fact, she emphasizes the importance of creating a safe and trusting environment for those with Autism to be able to thrive and reach their full potential. This includes early intervention through Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, which Dr Msuya-Lasway believes can greatly reduce self-injurious behavior and improve outcomes for individuals with Autism.

As part of her mission to educate parents and caregivers, Dr Msuya-Lasway aims to reach out to fellow Tanzanians in the diaspora who may have children with Autism and are seeking assistance in navigating resources. She hopes to provide a supportive and understanding community for these families and empower them with the knowledge and tools necessary to support their loved ones with Autism.

Illinois Autism – Treatment & Support

Dedication and advocacy have resulted in significant progress towards creating accessible services for families with Autism, thanks to the efforts of legislators, Doctors, special education teachers, parents, and advocates such as the Illinois Autism Center.

At IAC, for example, we strive to raise awareness about Autism & provide essential resources and services such as high-quality ABA therapy. To learn more about these therapy services and how we can assist you, check out this page.