BHUBANESWAR: “I am not retarded. I am just special,” are the silent words that can be heard from the few children of the Autism Therapy Centre (ATC) who had come for their regular therapy.
“What I fear is what will happen to them when they are adults. When the innocence will no more be there,” said Swarnalata Mishra, one of the parents whose child, Chinu is autistic. The case of an autistic man who was beaten up by the public for being mistaken as a mad person has shaken her. The one thing that the parents talk in unison is how special their children are. If one is a writer, the other is good at drawing and another at solving puzzle in record time.
The symptoms of autism can be identified at early stages at the age of one to three. It can be lack of eye contact, lack of verbal communication, less social interaction and repetitive behaviour. The parents need to consult a doctor. Early diagnosis means more permanent cure.
“Another issue that worries the parents is the fear of social stigma attached to it. People do not know what autism is and relate it to madness,” said Mishra. Mishra talked of numerous instances when parents discontinued treatment due to social stigma. “What they forget is that they are losing out on a chance to give their children an opportunity to explore them,” said Mishra adding parents’ pain cannot be understood by an outsider.
Since autism is not a disease, there is no cure for it yet. A combination of therapy like specialist education combined with speech and behavioural therapies can bring down the repetitive behaviour and calm them down. The faculty at ATC (run by Manage Autism Now Trust), mainly focus on calming the children and exploring their individual talents.
A combination of therapy like Sensory Integration Therapy, Behavioural Therapy, Speech Therapy is provided to the children. “ATC does not charge exorbitantly and it is up to the parents to decide how much they can pay. The child should be taken care of is the only motive of the centre,” said Mishra.