HYDERABAD: While J Sharada Ram, founder of Aarambh, an NGO that provides care for autistic children, started understanding autism in 2000 when her own daughter was diagnosed with it, the number of cases detected were one in every 1000 children.
Today, one in every 68 children are being identified as autistic.
However, the problem that existed then exists even today, according to Sharada Ram. “There are no mechanisms to detect the mental illness among children in the Telugu states even today. Doctors and psychiatrists are not fully sure about the diagnosis. If an autistic child is unable to speak, they are directing speech therapy. That is not the solution,” pointed Sharada Ram.
“Most times, autistic children are diagnosed as mentally retarded. However, mentally retarded children have decent social skills and are willing to socialise. They cannot speak because their speech is impaired. Autistic children communicate in various other ways. We do not have enough trained professionals to identify this in Telangana. We have depute them from other states,” said Sharada.
Suresh Gutta, who has worked with children with disabilities (CWDs) for over 10 years said there is also lack of a system that can help diagnose the condition.
“Sometimes, pediatricians provide diagnosis, which is not right. Special psychometric tests help identify autism. For instance, all children are hyper active, but the level is much higher and that can be detected by psychometric tests. But no one is aware of them,” said Gutta.
Officials from the State department for Welfare of the Disabled and Senior Citizens too are unaware of autism says D Sudershan, assistant director, Hyderabad, Welfare of Disabled and Senior Citizens, Telangana State, there are only non governmental organisations working for the care of those with mental illnesses.