THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: ‘‘All these years we have been calling autism a disease, but it is a state and not an illness", says Renuka Biju, principal of Srishti Centre For Special Kids, Jagathy. Working as a special educator for the past nine years, she points out the need for a change in perspective and the way autistic kids are being treated. She stressed the importance of treating them equally.
"Children and their parents are conditioned in a such a way that the society demands a different approach towards autistic children. In reality, we shouldn't be treating them as they are sick, for example, when you open doors for them every day they will expect you to open the door forever. That is not how it should be done, do not let them feel like their inability is the cause for your sympathetic approach," she says. Srishti takes a different approach to teach by conducting field trips for the children.
Renuka says when autistic children are set free and given a chance to explore the world like normal kids, it makes a huge difference in their behavioural pattern.
"We took them to Ooty for a five-day trip and they had fun exploring the nature. After that trip, we saw a tremendous difference in their behaviour, children became more active and improved their socialisation skill," she says. According to Sulekha AK, mother of a fifteen-year-old girl who is a student at The Center for Autism and other Disabilities Rehabilitation Research and Education (CADRRE), Plamudu, parents go through severe mental pressure due to the stigma attached to autism. Sulekha was working as an English teacher and because of her kid's condition, she went a step ahead and took a diploma in special education and joined CADRRE as a special educator.
"Autism cannot be detected during pregnancy but can be noticeable at the age of one and a half years or two. In my daughter's case, fortunately, early intervention was possible and we started treatment at a very young age. It was in 2006 and I was working in Bengaluru. At that time autism centres or schools did not exist in Kerala. After three years of treatment, she was taken to CADRRE where she received skill development, behavioural and speech therapy," says Sulekha.
She points out nowadays social media has popularised the term autism and more people are aware of the condition even though they don't know its intricacies. On the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day, autism-friendly events, summer camps and educational activities will be organised by autism centres and schools in the capital city.
A change in viewpoint
According to Renuka, principal of Srishti Centre For Special Kids, there should be a change in perspective and the way autistic kids are being treated. When autistic children are given a chance to explore the world, it makes a difference in their behavioural pattern.