OUR HISTORY

From PAAI to APAi

We started in 2011 as a Blackberry Chat Group of friends; mothers of children on the autism spectrum, to discuss our common concerns. Some of the challenges faced by autism families in Nigeria include ignorance, stigmatization (which affects school enrolment of children with autism), financial challenges, isolation and lots more.

These are the everyday issues that led us, Angela Emuwa, Bolanle Adewole, Dotun Akande, Nneka Obiagwu and Toun Okunoren to see the importance of coming together to start an autism community in Nigeria that would provide a pivot for families with similar challenges to exchange ideas on coping strategies as well as constitute a voice for the community. 

We had individually been doing things to create awareness and bring respite to people and families living with autism but we soon realised that we needed to create a formal body to accommodate new friends so we could do more for more families, in an organised manner. The journey to form the association started and we eventually became incorporated as Parents against Autism Initiative, PAAI.

Mrs. Nneka Obiagwu is the President/Founder of The Child Restoration Initiative, an educational advocacy group for children with special needs; Mrs. Adetoun Okunoren runs Nutri-centre, a health and organic food store for people with autism and other health challenges; Dr. (Mrs.) Dotun Akande is the Founder/Proprietress of Patrick Speech and Languages Centre (PSLC) and Mrs. Bolanle Adewole is the Founder and Executive Director of The Learning Place Centre (TLPC); two unique centres where children with autism can receive tailored education and related services. Mrs. Angela Emuwa, an experienced advertising and communications practitioner and and a Director with Punch Newspaper, has worked hard to utilize Punch’s wide reach to create awareness on autism. She has often influenced and sometimes sponsored Public Information Packages on disabilities and autism.

2012, Our Landmark:

In 2012, we were able to pull off two exciting activities that have brought us closer together as a team and energized us to reach for higher goals:

SpoRtlight

In April 2012, we made our first major outing with SpoRtlight, an inclusive fun sporting event which held at the Onikan Stadium. It gave children on the spectrum alongside their typical peers, the opportunity to express themselves through sports, and also provided leisure and fun activity for their parents and caregivers. It became easier from then on to believe that we could invite more people to share the vision and grow it!

Pull-out Supplement in Punch

We adopted media campaigns as one of our annual activities and got our first major break with a pull-out supplement on autism on April 16, 2012 in Nigeria’s leading newspaper, Punch. Many concerned parents who saw the articles began to contact us from different parts of the country to share their challenges and we have tried to help some of them within the limits of resources available to us so far. We have also seen schools begin to reform their enrolment policies to accommodate children with disabilities including ASDs.

In February 2013, we rallied round the family of a missing boy with autism; supporting with massive media campaigns, social media networking and we even organized a walk where we circulated his pictures on the streets, everywhere until the boy was finally found in Eko General Hospital in Marina, Lagos, far away from his home in Ikorodu.  

 

He had wandered from the house and got knocked down by a hit-and-run vehicle at Obalende. Some good Samaritans around rushed him to the hospital where miraculously, the media campaigns via PUNCH, helped the hospital staff to identify him. The support we got from the media and the happy ending of that situation brought us closer and attracted more parents to our fold who wondered why they did not learn of PAAI sooner. This led us to organise a formal launch from where we could scale up our reach and establish a presence in other cities and states in the country. The programme was tagged ‘An unwinding evening for parents’, affording autism families some dance and mingle moments away from the routine of managing their wards. The event held at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island Lagos on Saturday April 18, 2014. The programme also acknowledged and gave appreciation awards to pioneers and veterans of autism support services in Nigeria.

Couched in the positive publicity generated by this successful outing which immediately earned the group 25 new members, were complaints about the incongruity of the word, ‘against’ in the group’s name which sounded as if the members would be speaking against the very people they were convening to advocate for. A change of name therefore became inevitable and we had to put all activities on hold until we achieved it. That cost us nearly 3 years of lull and protracted work for our lawyers to effect the change of name with the Corporate Affairs.

Towards the end of 2016, we finally got renamed as Autism Parents Association International, APAI; the name we currently bear.

Autism Parents Association International, APAI, invites all interested parents who share our cause to join hands with us in the quest to keep the light burning IN the tunnel.