The Military Wives Association of Kenya (MWAK) in collaboration with Compensation and Welfare Department from Defence Headquarters has today 31 March 2023 commemorated World Autism Awareness Month at the Defence Forces Wellness Centre (DFWC), Lang’ata Barracks as well as Eldoret and the Coastal regions.
The day which is marked annually on 2nd April, is aimed at raising awareness and advocacy for the condition and the people living with it. The end goal is to help improve the quality of life of those with autism so they can lead full and meaningful lives as an integral part of society.
The day kick started with a 2Km procession around the Garrison, with KDF families donning blue themed t-shirts to symbolize peace and serenity. Speaking during the ceremony Chairperson MWAK, Mrs. Tabitha Kibochi appreciated the parents for showing up to mark this day in celebrating the resilience of those affected by the condition.
Mrs. Kibochi pointed out that MWAK being guided by its mandate of promoting the wellbeing of KDF families, has partnered and collaborated with the Directorate of Medical Services (DMS) and Bethany kids in conducting early assessment of children. In this regard, the chair encouraged parents to conduct early screening for their children.
Garrison Commander Lang’ata Barracks, Brigadier Isaako Jaldesa while welcoming the MWAK team and the KDF families, stressed on the fact that these particular families need to be well taken care of, saying that the best brains in the world were autistic.
Brigadier Jaldesa further encouraged pregnant women to engage doctors during early stages of the pregnancies to avoid severe problems in the future. A sentiment that was echoed all through the units, putting emphasis on the children’s talent and their impressive skills, noting how such talents would be valuable addition to the society.
Madam Fridah Gatere who is a parent of three with one autistic child, gave her life journey raising an autistic child. She highlighted the challenges she has faced over the years, including the stigma from the society. She urged the parents to show love to their children and to give them the peace they need in order to work together as a team.
On his part, Sergeant Benard Kamau from the Kenya Army Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (KACEME) expressed his gratitude to the Kenya Defence Forces fraternity for the support accorded to his autistic child and family. He encouraged his fellow parents to accept their children as they are, saying acceptance and early intervention helps and further encouraged them to engage therapists early enough.
The Autism Day Commemoration is along the Chief of Defence Forces 8-point agenda on health which is ‘Developing a robust soldier-centred welfare framework and a health care system that is aligned to the challenges of an increasingly complex and uncertain operating environment.