Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
World autism Day is celebrated every year on 2nd April. Every year, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events. The aim is to increase awareness about the autism disorder and instead of denying it, it is better that it is accepted and subsequently managed.
Autism or Autism spectrum disorder is under the umbrella of pervasive developmental disorder. The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism. Here the main symptoms or deficits are in area of socialisation and communication.
Autism is a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact.
Treatment can help, but this condition can’t be cured
It is chronic i.e. it can last for years or be lifelong
Identification of symptoms
As early as about 15 months, if the child is not responding to the name or making eye contact, these can be alarming symptoms. Usually speech delay is considered more prominent factor, but speech delays can be because of other areas also.
If a child is not responsive, there is a need to show it to a professional. A formal diagnosis can be made only after two years of age. There are also formal tests like childhood autism rating scale on the basis of child psychologist and paediatrician, this disorder can be diagnosed. The early detection is the key to management of this disorder.
Many a times the child is not responding or is responding sporadically, is fixated certain toys and doesn’t want to let go them. Usually child is under the paediatric care and monitoring in the first early years of life of about 5 years.
First, the parents shouldn’t be afraid or scared. Many times there are developmental delays also which could manifest in this form. But if the child is diagnosed with autism, there is no need to panic. There are good professional facilitates available for management of these symptoms and now a day’s many schools are equipped with professionals to deal with these children.
Parents have to understand that earlier the intervention is started with, the better will be the management of the symptoms. There can be prevention of lot of difficulties and problems. There will be many areas of concern with the child, early intervention can help the child and the parent to cope up with it well.
Many sensory issues are there which change over a period of time as a child grows up. Those could be sensory integrative dysfunctions in a technical language. It means that child may seek certain visual senses, auditory inputs and may get self-occupied. These are things which only a professional can identify. The earlier these starts, it improves the functionality of the child so that it responds better to the environment.
Involvement of parents
Parents are the key to management of their children. These children require constant supervision and monitoring, especially in the earlier phases of therapy. Lot of parents go to speech therapist when their child has a speech delay. There is no harm in that, but for autistic child, there is a need to start with occupational therapy which takes care of sensory integrative dysfunction and behaviour therapy. Then they can visit the child psychologist who can then refer to various other therapies the parents can go to.
Multidisciplinary team works in collaboration on the child. According to the needs, the inputs are varied and symptoms of autism are managed.
Parents are required all the time as half an hour with the therapist is not sufficient. There are plans which need to be worked with total confidence at home. Only when the parents work as co-therapist, the children can be better managed.
Denial can lead to disasters
Parents generally tend to deny that their child is suffering with autism. Professionals have to provide right kind of mental education to these parents. They have to them about the possibilities rather than limitations. There are many windows closed when it is talked of an autistic kid, but there are many doors that are also opened. They have to use those opportunities and strengths to help work on the limitation of the child. They have to be also told about positives of the early intervention. Hence, sensitisation is very important.
Child with autism requires a group of therapies which work in effective management of autism. If not exposed the child to them because of denial, it can do more damage to child than making a progress.
Self-treatment should be stopped
Many a times, parents are diagnosing on own. Even if the child is not autistic, they say it is autistic. Hence, they should not do what they are not trained for. Right kind of treatment has to be sought.
The professionals, the infrastructure, the methods are present and are growing. There is a need for trained professionals which is increasing against the diagnosis of autism disorder. The involvement of the professionals from the right time will help in autism management.
Till now the results of the research are not very conclusive if autism is a hereditary disorder or not. There is no one factor which a reason for autism. Lot of factors are present- it could be genetic, environmental or something during pregnancy.
There is a promising future for these children. The intensity with which the child is affected varies from case to case. Paediatrician is the first choice for the parents. If the parents are yet not satisfied, they can consult a child psychologist. Depending on the functionality, schooling is suggested to them. But one of the most important things is that they need supervised peer and social interaction. They can be taken to parks and schools where there was social interaction. The days of special schools are not now as this is an era of inclusive education. There are schools which have special set up where autistic child is part of normal classrooms.
Myths like children will be a burden, they will not be functional are not true. Usually they have intellectual deficit and some of these children are extremely bright and are high functioning. They may not be good at communicating or socialising, but they are not in any way inferior. Some of them may have difficulty in terms of their functioning intellectually, but not all autistic kids are dull in terms of intellectual functioning.
Barriers in treatment
The biggest barrier is the lack of awareness and denial on part of parents. Family members may compare that the child’s parent also faced problems in reaching the growth milestones so it is nothing. Sometimes, the child reaches the school stage and is referred for an evaluation.
In some cases the parents feel that they can manage it better as they feel they have neglected the child. However, it is not due to neglect. The symptoms can exacerbate because of the neglect but it will not be a cause because of the neglect.
Thus, self-treatment should be avoided and professional should be consulted for best results.
Importance of autism awareness day is that there is a need to create awareness about autism. Earlier autism was mixed as kind of psychosis but research and studies into this area has created more insights into the autism disorder. This issue can be brought into public sphere with more publicity and can be presented creatively in advertisements and movies to create awareness.
Connecting the dots:
Psychological disorder is often considered a taboo in the society. Its denial has hampered the lives of the sufferers as well as their near ones. Discuss the role of the stakeholders in the society.