New App Helps Autistic Children In Ghana
Posted On Jun 05, 2016
An inspirational 24-year-old woman is making learning and life easier for autistic children and their families in Ghana. Alice Amoako created a locally configured autism app, the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa, designed to improve communication skills among children struggling with the disorder.
Speaking of what lead her to develop the app, Alice told The Guardian, “I [visited] an autism center and had interactions with the caregivers and children, and I realized there was a need to help raise awareness. In my final year [at university], I had to do a project to complete my studies, and we developed the app.”
1 child in 87 under the age of 3 is diagnosed with autism in Ghana. Autistic children face discrimination and the availability of learning tools and programs was lacking. Alice sought to change this by increasing awareness of the disorder and founded the Autism Ambassadors of Ghana.
Last year, Alice teamed up with her partner Solomon Avemegah to create the app after winning a competition, sponsored by the mobile communication company Tigo. Their goal was to raise autism awareness in Ghana, while also providing necessary learning and communication tools as well as information on local resources.
The free app has visual aids to improve learning, communication tools and materials for teachers and parents, and an SMS helpline for caregivers. It provides information on autism facilities and centers in Ghana, a section devoted specifically to raising awareness, and lists of food and transport.
Alice said, “They can learn all kinds of things. We were able to modify it in such a way that it even has the list of Ghanaian foods. If a child wants to eat banku [fermented corn and cassava], for example, they can just click on the picture. We have the Ghanaian transport system with taxis and tro-tros [public minibuses], and we hope to include local languages on the platform in the future too.”
Autism specialists have already seen the positive effects of the app on the children’s visual learning and communication. They hope it will increase awareness and acceptance, thereby bringing more undiagnosed cases to light so the children and parents can get the help they need. Ghanaian parents who have children diagnosed with autism are also raving about the app.
Kwaku Offei Addo says his four-year-old son Joel has shown improvement with identifying objects and learning words after using the app. He spoke of meeting other fathers whose children have been diagnosed with autism, citing the difficulties men often face in Ghanaian society when their children are autistic.
He said, “[People think] it demeans your status as a man. It was really difficult for me to accept [but] over time, with the effort, it has built me up to a level … I think of the positive things and it motivates me.”