Autism Awareness in Nigeria: Meet Nobelova Gradani

IBCCES Certified Training Partner Nobelova Gradani is educating the Nigerian community about autism in effort to reduce stigma about ASD.


Meet Helen Obiageli Oshikoya, the founder of Nigerian-based Nobelova Gradani. Nobelova Gradani is an IBCCES Certified Training Partner that was created to help train and educate professionals that work with individuals with autism in Nigeria.

As part of their self-funded effort to address the burden of autism in Lagos Nigeria, the organization has been involved in many efforts since 2012, including school-based awareness programs, screening of at-risk children and training of middle-level intervention service providers.

  1. School-based awareness programs on autism and other neuro-developmental disorders: As part of effort to increase awareness of autism and related neuro-developmental disorders within elementary school settings, Nobelova Gradani selected elementary schools in Lagos and organized awareness programs among the teachers and sometimes the parents. The awareness program focused on explaining the nature and dynamics of autism spectrum disorders, including the importance of screening and surveillance.
  2. School-based screening and surveillance neuro-developmental disorders: After a successful awareness campaign, Nobelova Gradani engaged in a large-scale screening and surveillance for autism spectrum in schools in Lagos. With the support of parents and schools, they have been able to screen over 5,000 children in 32 elementary schools in Lagos from 2012 to date. Through these screening processes they have identified a significant number of children with neuro-developmental risk or autism spectrum disorders, out of which at least 40 children are currently receiving intervention services.
  3. Interdisciplinary intervention support for schools and pediatric hospitals: Nobelova Gradani has created an interdisciplinary team of experts and provided needed intervention for children identified with neuro-developmental disorders for schools and pediatric hospitals in the Lagos area.
  4. Screening of at risk children: Nobelova Gradani commenced screening of children under the age of 5-years-old living with HIV in Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) Ikeja. To date, they have screened close to 50 such children.
  5. Training of middle-level intervention service-providers: Due to a severe dearth of personnel to provide intervention services for developmental disorders with autism spectrum disorders in view in Nigeria, Nobelova Gradani has embarked on a structured training program to produce middle-level program facilitators for neurodevelopmental disorders. These facilitators are sourced among persons who already had some training in child-education or those who are currently working with children (such as pediatric nurses and social workers). They have developed a training curriculum which equips trainees with basic knowledge and skill in key interventional areas, and are trained to implement intervention programs developed by a specialist for a child with autism disorder.

To further standardize this training program, Nobelova Gradani has sought affiliation with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), a U.S.-based board established to meet the credentialing needs of professionals who work with children with special needs. IBCCES has now approved Nobelova Gradani’s training curriculum for the IBCCES Certified Autism Specialist certification as a Certified Training Partner. Currently Nobelova Gradani has 30 trainees in the program. Five of them sat for and passed their certifying exams in July 2016.

dscn0797Addressing Autism in Nigeria

The key to addressing autism lies in early detection and prompt intervention. Early detection can be achieved through community-based neuro-developmental surveillance for all children within the first 36 months of birth. Population-based neuro-developmental surveillance is important in view of the fact that determining early risk signs and first emerging symptoms of disorder is imperative to enhance early detection and to identify targets and ideal time points for prevention and intervention efforts. Interestingly, the signs of autism first appear in early childhood and definitive diagnosis can reliably be made by school age for most. However, in resource-constrained settings such as Nigeria, population-based neuro-developmental surveillance is not always possible due to constraints in human and material resources. In such settings, an alternative is to engage in the conduct of neuro-developmental screening for children who are ordinarily at risk. Such children will include children living in difficult circumstance (example: those living in orphanages, refugee camps, or being raised by mothers with diminished parental capacity); children with chronic medical conditions (such as HIV, heart conditions, sickle-cell disease et cetera), children who experienced birth complications, and children with genetic risk of neuro-developmental disorders.

There are effective interventions for autism if detected early. Interventions are usually inter-disciplinary involving several disciplines working together as a team. This team often includes neuro-developmental specialists, speech and language therapists, applied behavior analysts, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, inclusive-education specialists, pediatricians and child psychiatrists.

dscn0802Meet Nobelova Gradani’s Interdisciplinary Team

Ms. Toks Bakare is the Behaviour Analyst and Principal Consultant of MS Bakare provides Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) treatment for children in Europe and in Nigeria. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Philosophy. She has assisted with research on autism and Applied Behaviour Analysis internationally, in peer reviewed journals. Broad experience in ABA includes extensive consultant’s training, experience, research, teaching and management on the UCLA Multi-Site young Autism Project, at the UK replication site. MS Bakare is now the founder of, a platform for families in need of professional Behavioural advice, treatment and support.

Mrs. Patricia Orange is a speech and language pathologist. She holds a Master’s Degree in Speech and Language Pathology and has extensive experience assessing and working with children from nursery to primary school age. Her experience extends from typically developing children to children with neurodevelopment delays in Nigeria.

Dr. Olayinka Atilola is a consultant Psychiatrist and lecturer in Psychiatry at Lagos State University College of Medicine, Lagos. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine, a Bachelor’s Degree in Surgery and a Diploma in Children, Youth and Development. He has extensive experience in child and adolescent psychiatry providing mental health services to children and adolescents in Nigeria. A fellow of the West African College of Physicians and the Medical College of Psychiatrist, Dr Atilola is published in many peer reviewed journals internationally.

Dr. Bolanle Ola is of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital. He has Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, International Masters (with distinction) in Mental Health Policy and Services from New University of Lisbon, Portugal, International Masters in Addiction Studies (with distinction) from King’s College, London, and PhD in Applied Social Sciences from De Montfort University in the UK. He has fellowships in Psychiatry from Faculties of Psychiatry, National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria as well as West African College of Physicians and Fondazione/World Psychiatry Association Fellowship in Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

Dr. Remilekun Durojaiye is a physiotherapist with over 25 years’ experience. She obtained her Diploma in Physiotherapy from Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol, England in 1988, her Masters in Physical Therapy from The University of Health Sciences, The Chicago Medical School, Chicago, USA in 1993 and her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the Alabama State University, Alabama, USA in 2009. She is Board certified in Biofeedback for the pelvic floor and has worked in a variety of settings during the course of her career including but not limited to pelvic rehabilitation, orthopaedics and Pediatrics.

Mrs Queen Onalaja is one of the founding directors of the Innovative Teaching and Learning Company and currently pursuing a Professional Doctorate in Special Needs and Inclusive Education. She gained her first degree is in Law from the University of Buckingham and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1990; her Post Graduate Certificate in Education and Qualified Teacher Status was obtained from the University of Greenwich; her Masters in Special and Inclusive Education from Roehampton University (UK); Level 3 National Open College network Certified Forest School Leader and a Professional Development Certificate in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from the Institute of Child Education & Psychology (Europe). She has experience in different educational roles, these include: Special Needs and Inclusive Education Consultant, Class Teacher at St Margaret CE Primary School (UK), Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) Co-ordinator at St Margaret CE Primary School (UK), Forest School Leader and is qualified to teach an alternative curriculum outdoors. Mrs Onalaja has a learning centre at GRA Ikeja Lagos.

Mrs Helen Obiageli Oshikoya is the founder / CEO of Nobelova Gradani PsychoEducational Services. A member of the Nigerian Bar Association since 1991 she holds a Master’s degree in Social Science from the United Kingdom consisting of child development, clinical and learning assessments and other areas of social sciences that require mental health expertise . With a wealth of experience in children’s rights she has been the foremost advocate for several campaigns involving the Rights of the Nigerian Child, developmental screening at birth being one. A member of the Nigerian Psychological Association, British Psychological Society, American Psychological Association, Dyslexia Guild and the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors she has made a great impact with children that have neurodevelopmental disorders. As a Certified Autism Specialist and a certified training partner of IBCCES she has created a whole new industry in mental healthcare. Children with specific learning disabilities in Nigeria are able to have examination access arrangements for schools in the United Kingdom due to her being a Specialist Assessor. Her CHILD-P initiative has provided hospitals, schools and establishments with developmental, educational and psychometric tests as well as also providing interventions and workforce engaged programmes that really work.

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