Autism among children has been on the increase even globally. Some years ago, it was found that 1 in 68 children was affected by autism in United States and now it is 1 in 45 children. According to a random statistics given by TN Health Secretary, Mr.Radhakrishnan, 30 lakhs children have been approximately affected by autism in Tamil Nadu. This information also pertains to last year’s data. Since it is spreading at a fast pace among the new-born babies, it is possible that it would have increased further. Therefore, it is imperative that we gear up our overall system to face this uphill task of managing this health issue. It is essential to take stock of the situation and start taking suitable measures to fight against it. Once we know how to find out this condition among the new-born babies, the Government can start taking necessary preliminary steps to handle this problem. Accordingly, the basic awareness to be created among the common people is absolutely necessary.
What is autism?:-
It is basically a neurological deficiency or disorder. The affected children will lack in efficiency as that of normal children in communicating with others as well as socialising with others. Majority of these children will lose their ability to talk and even if they are able to talk, it will not be easily understandable. There are different types of autism such as PDD, Asperger etc. and in general, it is called ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder – ASD’ in medical jargon. The degree of deficiency will be unique from individual to individual.
Symptoms and confirmation of autism:-
Approximately, autism can be found and confirmed from 10 to 18 months from the time of birth. The normal symptoms are: a) repetition of the same old activity by the child; b) absence of response even if the name of the child is called again and again; c) undue interest in rotating objects; d) instead of pointing fingers at the wanted objects- pulling others towards the object ; e) crying or laughing without reason f) lack of eye contact etc. These are some of the common symptoms that can be noticed. Otherwise, there is no direct medical test to determine this. In general, the child specialists and teachers, parents can identify this deficiency . Doctors basically raise lot of queries to parents and then conclude the presence of autism.
As of now autism is incurable; there is no specific medicine to cure this either. It is not a disease but only a deficiency which can be improved by some corrective exercises which must be administered consistently. The condition can certainly be improved and the affected children can function like other human beings as in other advanced countries. This is like diabetes that can only be effectively managed but not cured. In fact, there are number of individuals abroad who have crossed their fifties and still been suffering from autism. Based on the severity of Autism and the special skill of the child, they have to be trained suitably to make them live like a normal child. Therefore, effective management is certainly possible over a period of time.
Therapies required for Autism children:
The effect of autism will vary from child to child. Hence after proper consulatation with doctors and experts, the nature of therapy must be decided.Occupational therapy, Speech therapy and Social Education are required to solve sensory problems and to make the child adapt to perform daily chores. Yoga and music will add comfort for the child. Parents should consult therapist and train the child at home regularly. They should be trained to perform household activities suited to their age. They should be trained to perform the daily living routines like tooth cleaning, taking bath and using the toilet.
Till recent times, it was available only in private establishments or centres where the charges are exorbitant. It would not suit the purse of poor. Parents used to approach only these centres for correction and improvement of their wards’ autistic condition. Each session would be for a duration of 45 mts.to an hour charging roughly Rs.300/- to Rs.1,000/- per session. It is a serious constraint for the poor people.
However, these centres have now been made available in Government medical centres themselves. There is a separate ward in all the Government hospitals in all the districts. This was made possible after repeated requests made by the concerned parents to the Government. Parents have requested the Government to open such centres in all health centres at taluk and local panchayats. They are hopeful that their demands would be met with by the Government. We must note the fact that autism is not a communicable disease and hence we can move with them without any fear or hesitation.
It must also be understood that much depends on the initiative of the Government and the cooperation that must be extended by the public at large without treating this condition as a stigma in society.
(This article written in Tamil by S Balabharathi (Author of a book on Autism) has been reproduced in English by P.S.Ramamurthy)