Isolation is a feeling that both young and old must go through during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, those feelings can be especially strong for parents dealing with children with autism.
Isolation is a feeling that both young and old must go through during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those feelings can be especially strong for parents dealing with children with autism.
A local mother of five children, three of whom have autism, said that “autism is a journey you cannot go it alone”.
Dr. Abila Tazanu is a pediatrician, director and co-founder of Spectrum of Hope – Health, Health and Community Service in Prince George County, Maryland.
“The calling of my life is to help people living with autism realize better happiness,” she said.
She said her call began with the diagnoses of her three children, but they were not diagnosed chronologically. The mother-of-four said her third child, her only daughter, had been diagnosed first.
Tazanu said she noticed that when her daughter was 21 months old, she gradually stopped talking and started to withdraw into herself. After screening and evaluation through Prince George County’s early intervention program, her child was diagnosed with autism. At the time, Tazanu was pregnant with her fifth and final child.
When that child, a boy, was one year old, she noticed that her speech was not improving.
“Aidan didn’t use words,” she said.
Tazanu also noticed behaviors such as spinning objects and difficulty hearing.
“At that point, my radar was working,” Tazanu said. “I knew that there was something different about his development.”
Tazanu said it was a harrowing time and a “time of reflection.” She said she realized she could make a difference. Tanzanu began contacting other parents and school officials, eventually creating a parent alliance.
That alliance led to the founding of a nonprofit, One World Center for Autism, which she ran for 14 years. She started Spectrum of Hope, a pediatric organization whose goal is to identify children with autism, and link children to family support and services.
The results of the autism diagnosis for Tazanu’s last child played out differently from the other two cases.
“He lived in the shadow of his two siblings, who were more deeply affected,” she said.
When she looks back on his childhood, she remembers him as a socially aloof person, but without a speech delay like other children.
She said he was initially diagnosed with ADHD. She then began to have social interests with him at the end of elementary and middle school. At the age of 18, Tazanu said he was also diagnosed with autism.
According to Tazanu, it is not uncommon for a child to be diagnosed with ADHD and autism. “Hope” is a word she uses frequently with parents from the very beginning of working with them.
Tazanu said this is her favorite word in English. Second, she tells parents and carers that they have to build a relationship.
“Autism is a journey you cannot go alone,” she said. “You will become overwhelmed by it. You will become more isolated, more depressed if you don’t make a connection.”
She also urges parents to learn what autism looks like in their children.
“It’s a spectrum,” she said, “And, no two kids look exactly alike.”
Dr. Tazanu was born and raised in Washington, D.C. Her father is from Cameroon in West Africa, and her mother is from Trinidad in the West Indies. They immigrated to the US in the mid-1960s. She received her BS and MD degrees through a dual program at Howard University.
This is part of the WTOP’s ongoing coverage of the difference-makers in our community, authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Read more about that coverage.
https://wtop.com/prince-georges-county/2022/01/prince-georges-co-spectrum-of-hope-helps-families-of-autistic-children/ Prince George’s Co. Spectrum of Hope helps families with children with autism