Autism in Uganda

Four out of five people with psychiatric disorders live in developing countries, where they have few opportunities for proper diagnosis and even fewer for treatment. Autism is one of the most challenging conditions in the world, with no known cause or cure. Up until a few years ago autism cases in Uganda were classed as “witch craft” and people with autism often referred to in local dialect (Luganda) as ‘kasiru’ loosely translated as dense and worthless.

Many parents of children with autism disown them or send them to their villages to live with distant relatives as it was classed as an embarrassment having a family member with a mental impairment thus largely rendering people with autism as social outcasts.

There are very few centres handling autism cases in Uganda and even fewer schools available for people living with autism, one such school is Komo Centre.

The centre is a humble establishment that was setup in 2004 and though quite scantily resourced, look after 12 autistic children, ages ranging from 3 to 17 years.

John Ferguson, Support Co-ordinator working with app2vox states, ‘app2vox is a communication tool for nonverbal and semi verbal people living with autism, this will greatly ease the communication process to those living with autism’.


As part of the development, we put together a group of test users from various centres handling autism cases in Uganda, Komo Centre being one of them.

John had the opportunity to meet the owner of the Komo Centre Elizabeth Kaleeba, who herself has an autistic son – Komo, for whom the centre was originally setup, as a haven and study centre as no schools at that time were equipped to deal with autism.

The centre has since grown from 1 child to a total of 50 children with special needs requirements, including those with autism. The centre has an expansive curriculum with emphasis on increased social interactions with other children as a form of therapy for the autistic children and scheduled home visits to keep parents or carers apprised of progress.