Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects communication and social interaction, language and behaviour.
According to a latest study, one in about 70 children suffer from autism. About 11,914 cases are detected every year in India. Autism is a “spectrum” disorder as the symptoms exist along a continuum and may vary from mild to severe degree.
Autism is primarily characterised by difficulties in communication and social interaction, difficulty in expressing feelings, unusual responses to sensory input such as oversensitivity to light, taste, sound.
A child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may have difficulty in relating to peers, responding to their name, have poor eye to eye contact and may engage in repetitive behaviours.
For parents, accepting the diagnoses of autism remains a challenge due to the stigma, a sense of helplessness and prognosis of the disorder and the lack family and social support.
Dr. Rajesh Kumar, Consultant Child Psychiatrist at Max Hospital and Founder and Director at UDGAM — a mental healthcare and rehabilitation centre — says financial constraints, availability of professionals, lack of parental support and awareness are significant barriers in the care of such children.
“We as social and responsible members of society should come forward and spread the awareness and sensitise the government and people,” she said.
Clinical Psychology plays an important role in diagnosing, parent training and behavioural management of the disorder. According to Ira Gupta, Clinical Psychologist at UDGAM, early diagnosis and intervention is the key to the treatment.
ASD can be diagnosed as early as 3 yrs of age after which the required interventions can be initialed, which will in turn lead to enhancing the quality of life of both the child and the family.
Senior Special Educator Rakesh Kumar believes that along with raising autism awareness one needs to work to raise autism acceptance and autism inclusion. Awareness is the first step in the process, which needs to be continued further with timely intervention with remedial support and special education.
Autistics everywhere deserve to be heard, included, educated, and advocated for, he added.
Senior Speech Therapist Dr. Murli Singh talks about full participation and commitment with people with autism and that love is the best healer. They should be given natural opportunity or situations to use their verbal skills. Continuous use of speech and language therapy would help them use their communication skills more effectively.