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Autistic people are not imbeciles, here’s what to know about autism

Let’s work together to create a world where everyone, regardless of their neurodiversity, feels valued and included.....CONTINUE READING

Have you ever heard someone referred to as “imbecile” or shortened to “imbe” because they behaved differently?

This term is not only outdated and disrespectful, but it also reflects a misunderstanding of a very real neurological condition: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

In Nigeria, just like anywhere else in the world, people with autism exist. They are not “imbeciles,” a term that implies a lack of intelligence. In fact, many people with autism have unique strengths, talents, and ways of seeing the world.

So, let’s clear up some misconceptions and explain what autism truly means.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that affects how a person processes information from the world around them. It can impact social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviours.

Autism is a spectrum. This means that every person with autism experiences it differently. Some people might have significant challenges with social interaction and communication, while others might excel in certain areas and struggle less in others.

While there’s no single test for autism, some early signs may indicate a need for further evaluation by a healthcare professional. Here are some signs to look for in children:

Limited eye contact and facial expressions

  1. Difficulty understanding or responding to social cues
  2. Delayed speech and language development
  3. Repetitive behaviours like rocking, flapping hands, or lining up toys
  4. Intense focus on specific interests or objects

These are just some possible signs, and not every child who displays a few of these behaviours will have autism. If you have concerns about your child’s development, consult a paediatrician or a child development specialist for a proper evaluation. Early intervention and support can make a big difference in a child’s development.

Note, however, that these signs can also be present in children who don’t have autism.

There are many myths surrounding autism, which can lead to misunderstanding and even social exclusion. Here are some common myths debunked:

  1. Myth: Vaccines cause autism.

Fact: Numerous scientific studies have shown no link between vaccines and autism.

  1. Myth: People with autism are incapable of learning.

Fact: Many people with autism are highly intelligent and can learn in different ways.

  1. Myth: Autism is a form of mental illness.

Fact: Autism is a neurological condition, not a mental illness.

  1. Myth: Autism is a disease that can be cured.

Fact: Autism is a lifelong condition, but with proper support and intervention, individuals with autism can lead fulfilling lives.

People with autism possess unique strengths and talents. Here are some examples:

  1. Attention to detail: They may excel in tasks requiring focus and precision.
  2. Strong visual memory: They may have exceptional recall of visual information.
  3. Honesty and directness: They may communicate honestly and directly.
  4. Creativity and innovation: They may approach problems from unique angles and come up with innovative solutions.

In Nigeria, awareness and understanding of autism remain relatively low. Creating a more inclusive environment for people with autism benefits everyone.

Here are some things we can do to better support individuals with autism:

  • Educate yourself and others: By learning about autism, we can challenge misconceptions and create a more inclusive environment.
  • Advocate for resources: Limited access to diagnostics, therapy, and educational support hinders progress. Advocate for increased resources for autism in Nigeria.
  • Practice patience and empathy: Communication and social interaction might be more challenging for people with autism. Be patient and understanding.
  • Celebrate differences: Embrace the strengths and perspectives that people with autism bring to the table.

Instead of using outdated and disrespectful terms like “imbe,” let’s use the correct terminology – Autism Spectrum Disorder. This shift in language reflects a deeper understanding and acceptance of this neurodevelopmental condition.


  • People with autism are not “imbeciles.” They are individuals with strengths, experiences, and perspectives.
  • Early detection and support can make a significant difference in a person’s life with autism.
  • We can all contribute to a more understanding and accepting society by fostering an inclusive environment.

By educating ourselves and accepting differences, we can create a world where everyone, autistic or not, can thrive.


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