Awaiting the change

Awaiting the change

Autism Awareness Day

Awaiting the change

Often, one has the tendency to stare at a child or an adult who behaves in a disoriented manner. While many brush this aside as another mental health issue, this could be related to autism. With another ‘World Autism Awareness Day’ here, it is time to focus on the challenges that autistic children and their parents face.

Savitha Nagarajan, a homemaker whose 14-year-old son Prajwul is autistic, has learnt to avoid stares and those who are indifferent to her child’s condition.

  “There are not many centres here which provide a space for  activities in connection to speech and language therapy, physical well-being and academics of the child under one roof. That is a big challenge. Most parents have to travel a long distance with their wards to such a centre,” she says.

Savitha has also taught her children to ignore snide remarks. “There are people who ask questions like ‘why does your child behave this way?’ If the elders could understand and learn about autism, it would be good,” she says.

Katrina Carlson from Finland, who lives here with her family, says that it isn’t always hard when the children are well-behaved. “Thankfully, my son Teo is a calm boy. But most autistic children and adults like to follow a routine and when this is disturbed, it could possibly disturb them. The challenge being in Bengaluru is making the environment friendly for him. Having the same people around is important. Another challenge I face here is the traffic. The driving patterns of people are not regular which can be disturbing,” she says. 

Officials from autism centres in the City say that the attitude to the condition though changing, has a long way to go.  Sarbani Mallick, founder-director and managing trustee of Bubbles Centre for Autism, says that though there is an increased awareness among youngsters and people about autism, a clear idea of the subject is still lacking. “Autism is a misunderstood condition. The biggest challenge one faces here is that the disability isn’t visible and thus acceptance of a child with autism is lower, compared to other disabled children,” she says.

She adds that there aren’t proper schools for autistic children in the City.
“The needs of each child are so varied and specific that there has to be a one-on-one approach with each of them.” Sarbani adds that denial among family members and relatives worsens the situation. “Also, early intervention is most crucial in this condition, as it helps in a better prognosis,” she adds.

Since the last 5 years, there has been an increased awareness, says Nithya Srinivasa Raghavan, centre head of Apoorva Centre- SAI Autism. “People didn’t know what autism was. But this city is not yet autism-friendly. The biggest challenge in autism is communication. When this is lacking, behavioural changes can be seen. The other issue is socialisation or how to mingle in the society,” details Nithya.

She adds that in the city, parents face the issue of not having a daycare centre for such children. “Parents don’t  have an option of putting their children in a centre for just a few hours, if they are going somewhere,” she says.

Medical professionals like Dr Shalini Rao, consultant paediatrician, Ovum Hospitals says that a proper support system for parents who have autistic children is lacking here. “I did my medical training in the UK and the system there helps in detecting educational and developmental issues in children at an early age like around 2 years, so that remedial action can be taken,” she says,

Dr Shalini says that an increase in self-help groups and government-led NGOs is the necessity of the hour.

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