10 medical professionals trained to diagnose autism


The ten professionals in a souvenir photograph with Dr Yost after they had been presented with their certificate

The corps of professional who will be working to provide a diagnostic service for Seychellois children include pediatricians, psychologists, speech and language pathologists, a nursing officer and a psychomotor therapist.

Jessica D’Unienville, Irene Jumeau, Anna-Lisa Labiche, Samantha Michel, Caelia Naiken, Fiona Paulin, Cathriona Shamlaye, Dr Erna Athanasius, Dr Xavier Rose and Lise Mischler received their certificates recently after following a two-week training on the use of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS 2).

Seychelles Children’s Foundation chief executive Noella Gonthier, a representative of JOUEL, parents, health officials and guests attended the closing ceremony.

Dr Kelly Yost, an autism expert from the University of Rochester, USA conducted the training and he described autism as a developed mental problem that is not caused by bad parenting.

“It is a development of a condition which starts early – a disorder both in language and communication, social interaction and also children have narrow and repetitive interests. That is they (children) do things over and over again, and they have unusual or abnormal interests that are very intense. All of these need to be significant enough to interfere with their social and educational functioning,” he said.

With 40 years experience working with children, Dr Yost said he is happy with delegates’ enthusiasm and talents in working with the gold standard of direct testing – ADOS 2.

The training formed part of the Autism Advocacy Project two-year plan sponsored by JOUEL, an affiliate of Diamond SA and Lawless Ltd based in Victoria. JOUEL sponsored the ADOS 2 tool kit which arrived in the country recently, and comprises booklets, manuals and other necessary material and equipment which allow for more accurate assessment and diagnostic of autism spectrum disorders across age, developmental level and language skills.

Dr Yost added that although a test is good and fine for something, the evaluator must be better than the test. And this is also something they worked on during the training.

“The delegates have become excellent observers of children’s behaviour and this is critical. In terms of what to do, some of these things you already have in place, and we know that the earlier we start the better the outcome is likely to be. We try to improve a child’s deficit area and at the same time work with parents as the children can pose a problem at home,” added Dr Yost, who even said a line in creole ‘Nou’n fer li. Mon esper sa zour pour nou revwar ankor.’

Dr Athanasius, who is the ambassador for women and children, and advisor to the Autism Advocacy Project committee, noted that she has learned over the years that “if a mom has concerns about her child, it is advisable for all professionals involved to take the time to have a second and third look and even refer to a colleague if still unsure. Mums have an uncanny sixth sense about their children – we should listen to them.”

To attain the necessary knowledge using the ADOS 2 to provide a reliable diagnostic evaluation of the children, the delegates re-learned the art of being a child, re-discovered the pleasure and excitement of imaginary play and storytelling, as well as getting down on all fours to see the world through the eyes of a child.

On behalf of her colleagues, Anna-Lisa Labiche thanked Dr Yost for sharing his expertise with them.

“We’ve learned a lot and we now see our children suffering from autism with a different eye,” she said.