Growing up in Nigeria, a sub- Sahara Africa country, I grew up with different myths and ideas of what a disability is and how people with disabilities should be treated.  I knew they should not be isolated, segregated and not allowed to participate in normal life events.

Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, live a traumatic life because Nigerian society does not believe in intellectual disabilities that do not manifest physically, such a person who lives with Down syndrome or cerebral palsy.  Parents face stigma on an everyday basis if their child/children are living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The fear of what the future holds for their children in terms of obtaining adequate health care, education, employable skills and being accepted in the society is always a constant thought for parents.

The above coupled with a lack of awareness, stigmatization and discrimination gave birth to my NGO- “The Autism Awareness Place” found at  Here we create awareness and advocate about Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Our goal is to create an inclusive world for children living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in Lagos, Nigeria.  The following are some of the ways we will continue to meet our goal: parental meet up and counseling, starting an inclusion first aide club in school and calling on teens to become advocate for an inclusive society, self-help training skills at our safe place center, & mental health support through our mental health safe place for siblings and friends of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

My experience as a Mandela Washington Fellow in the U.S. these past three month has opened opportunities for collaboration and personal enlightenment.  My time at the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) has been a positive one.  This past three months has been the best of learning and collaboration. It has also been unlearning and relearning of great ideas including simple yet amazing innovation to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder excel in an inclusive society.  I plan to continue my advocacy and awareness work in Nigeria by reaching out to children and families who live with Autism Spectrum Disorder every day to change the narrative.


-Omotoke Olowo

Mandela Washington Fellow

For the first time in the School District of Philadelphia history, classes for all students will start on August 27th. Young people and families deal with a variety of emotions during this transition and often need support through this time. DBHIDS serves children with behavioral health challenges and our goal is to work in partnership with parents to develop an individual plan that delivers high-quality care for the child and a high level of support for the family. For more information, click here

Philadelphia Intellectual disAbility Services (IDS) is a component of DBHIDS. IDS is responsible for planning, administering, monitoring and coordinating Early Intervention services and services for people with an intellectual disAbility. To learn more about events and resources at IDS, click here.

If a child is experiencing emotions or behaviors that may cause a life-threatening injury to self or others, the child should go to the Philadelphia Children’s Crisis Response Center. For more information click here. 

Throughout the school year, resources will be available for support at Healthy Minds Philly !