he is not mentally retarded but just hyper active and highly intelligent than an average nine-year old.
Ipinge Toele Junior Karipi is very observant and does things five times better than most average kids, according to his father, Teofe Karipi.
Junior is good in electronics and has an exceptionally good memory and by the age of six, he could count up to 1000.
“Junior had a normal birth and was just like any ordinary baby boy. But at the age of three, we realised that our child was weak in cognitive development. He was about to pick up his speech but then, it suddenly dropped but he showed a very high level of hyper activity,” says Junior’s father.
“When we took him for a medical check-up, the news about his autism hit us hard. It was so terrifying but we were hopeful that the disorder was curable. We took him to three psychologists and a neurologist who referred us to a neurologist in South Africa’s Cape Town Snap where an occupational therapist dealing with autistic children, helped Junior with his development,” recalls Karipi.
Autism, biologically known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), is a complex and variable developmental disability, which occurs as a result of disordered brain development and function, altering a child’s quality of development in the areas of communication, social interaction and imagination skills.
According to the founder of Autism and Aspergers in Namibia, Petra Dillmann, ASD is four times more common in boys than in girls and knows no racial, ethnic, economic or social boundaries. An ASD patient might have sensory difficulties too, Petra says.
“A lot of research is happening but currently, we do not have a precise answer as to what causes Autism. Many factors can be considered though; it can be inherited; it can stem from biological or environmental factors or the cause may be unknown. Seven to 14 genes, which might be implicated, have been identified.
A very important point that must always be remembered is that ASD is definitely not psychological; it is not the result of bad parenting and children with ASD do not choose to misbehave. It would appear that ASD occurs as a result of varied and different biochemical causes and presents itself as a malfunctioning of the brain,” Petra explains.
Junior lives in his own world, his father says. He only eats the same type of food, which is mahangu, soups, Oshikandela and pop corn. He also loves music.
Junior has now realised that he has a difficulty in communicating and sometimes gets angry if he is not able to communicate.
“Our house is upside-down as Junior sometimes throws things around but he has a great support system. He is not on any treatment or medication, because they make him so weak that he is never able to do anything,” Karipi states.
According to Petra, no two children with Autism are the same, so whilst one may find themselves comparing one child to another, be aware that an autistic child’s path of development may not necessarily be the same as that of another child. To date, ASD is not curable but it is controllable. Intensive team intervention and an individualised, specialised education plan must be implemented as early as possible, to ensure that an autistic child reaches its full potential in life. The earlier the correct and appropriate intervention is made, the better the prognosis.
“To date, there are no substantial researches on the incidences of ASD in Namibia; thus, funding for such is desperately required. According to the number of phone calls and referrals for help and support received, the number of cases here is the same as elsewhere in the world – and it manifests across all cultural groups. However, Autism is not a life-threatening condition. Autistic people are healthy individuals, they just have a different way of being,” concludes Petra.
And Junior’s father says, “We no longer look at Junior as a sick child but rather as an intelligent naughty boy. It’s a sad feeling though, to know that your child is going through this and one day, if you are not there, who would take care of him? Sometimes, he can be a danger to himself, as he sometimes runs into a moving car but we are positive. We hope we will live forever to take care of him.”