Bloom Buddy has commenced a collaborative agreement with the Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (CAND-DO) of the College of Medicine University of Lagos (CMUL) to support research and development in the field of Autism in Nigeria. The agreement follows an earlier partnership agreement with Autism Speaks, USA to digitize the Nigerian Autism Screening Questionnaire (NASQ).
The partnership between Bloom Buddy and CAND-DO is the outcome of a series of preliminary advisory engagements between both parties aimed at creating greater access to an autism screening tool designed in the context of Nigeria for use in research and care.
Bloom Buddy and CAND-DO will collaborate on executing the pilot phase of the digitized NASQ among adolescent patients at selected locations once the tool is launched. The development of the NASQ is supported by Autism Speaks, and is a free informant-report screening tool designed for low-resource settings in countries including Nigeria to assist in the early screening of autism.
The development and digitizing of the NASQ herald a new era for accessible diagnosis for Nigerians living with autism. Autism condition affects 1 in 68 people worldwide and it also occurs at a rate of 11.4% among children with developmental disabilities. The symptoms present in a wide spectrum and can include difficulty communicating and socializing, restricted interests and behaviours, as well as sensory sensitivity.
Although Autism awareness has increased in Nigeria recently, more needs to be done regarding the diagnosis and treatment of people living with autism in the country. Therefore, the NASQ has been designed to allow for a more appropriate prognosis that informs the right intervention needed to take care of those living with autism and create a better quality of life for them.
The development of the NASQ is based on DSM-5 criteria (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) and consists of two phases. The first phase, which was completed in 2022 after six years of development and community validation, was focused on the development and validation of the tool. The NASQ remains a screening instrument until the completion of the second phase of the validation study, which is still in progress.
Speaking on the collaboration, a founding faculty member of CAND-DO and an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos, Dr Yewande Oshodi, said the partnership will provide useful research data that is necessary to further understand the scope and extent of the burden associated with Autism Spectrum disorder in Nigeria.
“We certainly also applaud Bloom Buddy’s initiative to partner with Autism Speaks. We believe that this will improve access to screening and hopefully, epidemiological data can be obtained. The NASQ being the first autism screening tool developed in the context of Nigeria and digitized to create greater access, providing crucial support to low-resourced settings is a major step forward in the cause to improve access to autism healthcare services in Nigeria.”, Oshodi said.
She added that “since its evolution, CAND-DO of the College of Medicine the University of Lagos, (CMUL) has been and continues to be active in collaborating with stakeholders in community-based awareness, support and screening programmes for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD). We have done this with relevant research