Do Mother Teresa’s still exist? Yes they do.
There are still people who’s goal in life is to take care of people, especially those who can’t take care of themselves. In Nigeria (West Africa), Ibiene spotted one of these rare types. Her name is Beauty Kumesine, a public advocate for the identification and rehabilitation of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other related developmental disorders.
You see, in some parts of the world, especially developing nations, caring for special needs children is a huge task, even deemed as a burden to some because of societal and cultural beliefs and for Beauty to have held her candle high for more than 13 years, she’s worth learning from.
Let’s get to know her better.
Mrs. Beauty Kumesine is the founding Director of Blazing Heart Autism Center(BHAC) and Azbekum Foundation. She has over 13 years of experience in managing children living with childhood developmental disorders and in particular has specialized her skills and knowledge on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and related disorders.
She is passionate about children under the spectrum of Autism and children living with childhood developmental disorders in general and aims to give hope and help to as many as the number of persons she can access living with autism and related disorders in the south-south region and Nigeria at large.
For Beauty, every child counts and there is hope and help for every child.
Ibiene: It’s been 11 years since you established Blazing Heart Autism Centre. Why did you start this journey and how has it been?
Beauty: Eleven official years working with children at Blazing Heart Autism Center and 13 plus years working in the special needs space…This has been an awesome journey for me. This journey has been mixed with loads of happiness and fulfillment that I see children that couldn’t use words at all develop language and build up their cognitive skills and also a period of tears, sadness and pain which is a part of life but one thing I have not had in this journey is regret. I choose not to regret my decisions, actions and outcome of this journey but choose to enjoy the ride.
About why Blazing Heart Autism Center started……I have always harboured love for children in general but a deeper connection with children that find it difficult to express themselves or don’t “act like” their mates. This drove me to want to understand them more and the reason they do what they do, when they do it and how they do what they do.
I have always told myself that if they cannot use their words, “they can find their voices in me” and so every opportunity I have to advocate for them and educate others on how to achieve awareness, acceptance ,understanding and inclusions jump on that…. Every child is important, disability and challenges or not and every child deserves to thrive.
Ibiene: How would you rate the attitude of Africans to children living with autism people compared to those in developed climes?
Beauty: First and foremost, persons living with autism are individuals first before the disorder. To me, saying “Autistic people” is putting the disorder first before the individual which is a narrative that will change with understanding and building consciousness.
The attitude of Africans are changing progressively and its starting with understanding that autism is a different pattern of understanding and not a demon from the village. This pattern of understanding is slowly sweeping through. For educators and advocates, we will stop at nothing and are not letting anything stop us from bringing the dream of education and understanding to reality even in the minutest community. It takes consistency to get this done and we are putting together necessary action points for people in Africa and beyond to see that this reality is met.
Ibiene: Since you started your foundation, have there been any changes in the way people perceive or react to people with Autism?
Beauty: The narrative has changed and peoples perception to Autism and individuals with autism has really changed. I remember in the past, during fundraising for awareness events, someone said to me, why are you wasting your time on children that are obvious “ogbanges” (local term for evil spirit) and their rich parents have used for sacrifices to make wealth….? My first reaction was to ignore him and walk away….However, I said to myself that if I didn’t let him know, he will repeat it again and that would hurt more so there and then took another two hours in his office preaching about autism to him. I left that office feeling fulfilled that I was able to change someone’s mindset. Today, he has become a voice for individuals living with autism and wherever he goes, he makes it a point of duty to share a flier that talks about understanding autism. I am glad that I spent more time in his office talking to get one more person on the path of understanding and acceptance.
Ibiene: What are some core challenges people like you face in helping people with Autism?
Beauty: Core challenge is funding. People who help individuals with autism need funding to be able to develop evidence based research in line with the peculiar challenges that these individuals have.
We also face the challenge of societal acceptance and inclusion and that is why we advocate for inclusion. We know that not every child with Autism or any other special need can be in the regular mainstream classroom but if included in the society, that child can learn, develop and adapt skills that can assist him or her in living independently. The society needs to understand, accept and include individuals living with autism because inclusion does not start and end in the four walls of a classroom. We can do better and become better together.
Ibiene: In this time of the ongoing pandemic, where movement is restricted especially for children, how can caregivers help take care of children living with Autism?
Beauty: This is a very difficult period for caregivers but as special educators we have joined the online community to assist our children who need these care. Visual sessions have become the new norm. We all hope and pray for more understanding of the times that we find ourselves and hope for the best. If we don’t get back to our understanding of normal, we will strive hard to assist our children the best way we can because their development is paramount to us.
Ibiene: Talk to us about your core desire for people living with Autism in this part of the world.
Beauty: Being born in a third world country seems to be a disadvantage. Being born with autism in a third world country poses more challenges on the child or individual with autism ranging from diagnosis to structured individualized curriculum tailored for their development to proper infrastructure and the enormous financial challenges parents who have children with autism face.
My desire for individuals with autism is that the government gives tax rebate to parents who have children with autism so that they can take care of these children properly and their families too as we all know that the cost of taking care of an individual with autism (children, young adults and adults) is high. If parents have some form of support from our government, life will be made better for them and their families.
We should be able to develop tailored curriculums in our educational institutions and implement them specifically for the educational development and growth of persons with autism both in an inclusive mainstream educational setting and otherwise as we all know that inclusion doesn’t only happen in the classrooms. There should be understanding to include for every educational institution right from the early years.
We should have a government that supports caregiver who have truly dedicated themselves to assisting individuals with autism. Provide growth opportunities for them to enable them meet world best standard and practices. The government should be open to support individuals and corporate bodies who cater to individuals with autism and every other special need.
Are you managing a special needs child and you’re unsure of what next to do? Share your questions or comments with Beauty in the comment section.