Creating Autism Awareness: Solape Azazi

It’s Autism Awareness Month and more than ever there is a need to educate people on Autism and how to successfully raise a child on the spectrum. Today we speak to the lovely Solape Azazi as she gives some insight into raising a child with Autism
Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Solape Azazi and I’m the Executive Director & Founder of Cradle Lounge, a holiday club for children between the ages of 2 to 8, where they explore their creativity through arts and craft. Due to the dearth of adequate information and support services for Autism I have dedicated myself  to increasing advocacy, awareness and  knowledge on autism using social media amongst other  tools.
How and when did you realise your son was autistic?

We went to see my Son’s pediatrician at 21 months for a well-baby check-up and there he was flagged for possible autism because of his speech delay. What was more puzzling for me was that at 12 months, I have videos of my son calling “mama, dada” and other familiar names and using age appropriate functional words. Suddenly between the ages of 18-20 months, we experienced a decline in his number of words to eventually no words. The next time he started talking again it was baby babble. However as a  conclusive diagnosis cannot be done till the child turns 3 we had to wait till he turned 3 to get a diagnosis from a neurodevelopmental pediatrician.

What was your first reaction upon receiving the diagnosis?

My reaction, like most mothers in similar situation was to ask “why me? Why this? Why now?” I went from despair to depression and I felt completely helpless. I felt alone and unhappy like I was thrown in a dark tunnel and there was no way out.

You must have felt overwhelmed, what kind of support did you receive from family?

Luckily for me my family have been supportive. It’s been a long healing journey for us all. We have learnt to accept the cards we have been dealt, be more appreciative of one another, and be more accommodating and willing to lend a helping hand.

How has having an autistic child change your life?

Having an autistic child has changed my perspective on life. Those little things we take for granted, I don’t anymore. It’s taught me how to deal more patiently with people. Hearing my son make verbal requests for his needs feels like winning the ultimate lottery. I hear ‘mummy ‘and my whole world lights up.

What do you find to be the greatest challenge?

People fear what they don’t understand and except you are directly affected, there is no real vested interests. We need to shine more light on awareness and acceptance.

A lot of people have complained about the lack of proper learning support in Nigeria how did you deal with this?

Having a special needs child doesn’t come cheap. Most of the support the child needs to thrive is paid for out of pocket by the parents. No subsidy nor grants for such children. In a country with a high rate of poverty, high unemployment, minimum wage is nothing to write home about, cost of living is high plus you have other children depending on you. Paying outof pocket for the various support your ASD child requires can be very overwhelming.

What have you learnt from raising your son?

I have learned a lot from my son, most of all patience and to trust God’s plan for me.

What advice can you give other families who are raising an autistic child? 

My advice to other parents is don’t give up on your child. Ensure you do not let the diagnosis rob you of your joy. It is also important not to get caught in the present fear and forget what is important. Regardless of the diagnosis that child is still your child and deserves unconditional love support and acceptance. Above all stay motivated to help your child become the best that he can be.

Thanks a lot for sharing Solape and all the best!


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