With no two cases of autism being the same, diagnosing the disorder is a difficult process that can elude professionals and parents. The autism spectrum is wide, and professionals have yet to put together the pieces in the puzzle.
Across Sub-Saharan Africa, amongst the rural class, villages are completely thrown off when a child shows signs of autism. This has led to a problem in countries such as Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi, and Uganda where villagers consider children who are showing autistic symptoms to be witches.
Children with autism who are written off as witches often face torture and in some cases death because of their behavior. Churches organize meetings and rituals in attempts to exorcise them. These communities do not have a grasp on scientific understanding or research, so they chalk up a child’s behavior to something extraordinary or out of this world. They then penalize the children for it out of fear that they will bring destruction into their homes.
Belief in witchcraft is predominant amongst the rural class in these countries, and often in the most underprivileged areas. Children with autism aren’t the only ones who fall into the category however; something as simple as having asthma could have a child branded as a witch. Other common symptoms that lead to children being ostracized are: crying throughout the night, showing aggression towards others, and having severe tantrums. What makes it so much more difficult for these children is how much a child needs a loving family throughout their lives to progress and work on their everyday skills.