BANGALORE: It has been almost sixty years since the first ever case of autism was registered. Today, statistics reveal that one out of every 88 children are diagnosed with autism. Being a neural development disorder, autism is characterised by impaired social interaction, delayed language development and repetitive behaviour. On World Autism Awareness Day, City Express talks to a few parents and psychologists to find out more about the challenges involved in dealing with autism.
Autism is a genetic disorder that can be observed during childhood or infancy. It is often characterised by a triad of symptoms including cognitive impairment and difficulty in connecting with the external world. “There were quite a few factors that aroused my suspicion initially. Rahul (name changed) had issues with communication and wouldn’t make eye contact at all. Moreover, he couldn’t relate to people at all. Being a doctor, I decided to research autism and realised that Rahul exhibited almost all the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. As a parent, it is extremely difficult for one to accept that your child may not be ‘normal’. Since, then, Rahul has showed significant improvement in his behaviour. The journey has been tough. Today, I am a single mother and I feel extremely blessed to have him,” said Dr Shilpa Rao, a parent.
Parents often experience denial on receiving an autism diagnosis. However, delay in treatments may have adverse effects on the child’s overall development. “I remember being devastated when I first found out that my son suffers from autism. However, that did not stop me from ensuring that he receives appropriate treatments. Unfortunately autism has no well-defined treatments aside from neuro cognitive and occupationapl therapy. Today, he goes to a special school that focuses on functional academics,” said Vani, another parent.
According to Dr K Raghu, consultant psychiatrist at BJS Hospital, autism can be diagnosed at 18 months. However, one needs to be on the constant look out for symptoms and early signs. “As opposed to countries abroad, pediatrics in India are not really attuned to autism. The symptoms of the disorder include speech delay, repetitive behaviour, social development and minimal eye contact. In order to ensure that the child leads a normal life, both the parents and psychologist need to work collectively. Each child is different. A ‘negative’ mentality kicks in when parents refuse to accept the fact that something may be wrong with their child. This should be avoided at all costs. After all, children spend most of their waking hours with parents. Today, we are equipped with tools to treat children who are differently-abled. Parents should seek counselling and educate themselves to sustain a healthy environment for the child.”