Until recently, my exposure to autism was limited to Aamir Khan’s representation of the disorder in his movie “Taare Zameen Par”. A couple of weeks back when I was at my son’s activity class, I observed a fellow mother who had come to drop her son; along with her was a slightly elder boy whom she was constantly instructing and monitoring. One day I summoned courage to exchange greetings with her and inquired if her son was suffering from some special attention scenario. “He is Autistic” were her plain and simple words. I could see nothing in her words or her tone or expressions that invited any sympathy, neither did she look like someone who was trying to snap further communication or queries regarding her son’s state. My curious mind was juggling with the appropriate questions and non offending words so that I could know more about her and her son’s life without sounding nosy.
I carefully framed my first question and asked her, “So do you home school him or send him to a special school for learning”. Something clicked and over the next half an hour she told me how her life revolved around her two sons and how the entire family’s efforts were directed towards making life as normal as possible for their elder son. Her experiences and accounts of how her Autistic son called for a life revolving around specific routines left me inquisitive to learn more about this strange state of mind.
During subsequent meetings as I understood more about their life as a family with an Autistic child, I started searching for some authentic information on Autism. When I came across Ms. Anupama Maruvada’s webinar on Autism, I registered immediately. Ms. Anupama is Child Behaviour Therapist associated with Himalaya BabyCare and has developed programs to functionally reverse Autistism.
Below are some eye-opening facts about Autism as described by Dr. Maruvada–
Autism may be detected as early as within the first year of the child’s birth.
Parents need to be alert about early signs of the kid showing unsocial behavior, lack of ability to concentrate on one thing for long. Incase they doubt any abnormality; parent’s may consult a child behavior specialist. An observation session spanning 90 to 120 minutes is conducted along with a question answer session with the parents. This helps the experts evaluate if the child is likely to be autistic or not.
Autism is not a disease, it is just a Disorder
Autism is a neurological condition, present from early childhood, where the child is likely to have difficulty making connect with people and in communicating with them. Autism is a cause of “Gap in the mind cells” which in lay man’s language may be interpreted as “too much talking of the brain cells”. This limits the ability to understand language and abstract concepts.
From my interactions with the mother of an autistic kid, I came to know that many autistic children don’t even need to be under any medication. All that is required is to build up a simple routine with the child and follow it verbatim every day. For any changes in routine, the child should be repetitively prepared well in advanced so that she does not have any conflicts in her mind. I read somewhere, that a mother of an autistic child has been serving bread butter toast to her child for the last 10 years without any gap days.
Autism is a genetic disorder
As per research, if a child is suffering from autism, the younger sibling is genetically also likely to suffer from Autism. Yet, practically such a percentage is negligible. Only thing that needs attention is that, the parents need to be very careful while they plan a second child, because bringing up an autistic child is a full time commitment and the second offspring must also be trained from very early stages of his life to deal with an autistic sibling.
Autism cannot be prevented but can be reversed
Unlike Down syndrome, it is not possible to detect autism before child birth, nor can autism be prevented. Yet, if detected at an early age, it is possible to functionally reverse Autism. Dr. Maruvada, has designed special Infant Brain Stimulation programs to help reverse Autism and has been successful in 90% of the cases she has worked on.
Autism among children primarily limits there span of attention and learning ability which takes them away from mainstream academic course of life. Yet, through proper counseling and stimulation practices, it is possible that the learning process for an autistic child may be continued lifelong. The primary limitation in learning for an autistic child is with team based learning. For this reason, it may not be possible to send the child to a normal school, yet home schooling by expert teachers and trained parents for individual learning of academic concepts and logical cognizance is absolutely possible. Though there are numerous schools that have provision for education and special attention for Autistic children, yet the acceptance rate and fruition of education at such institutions remains a matter of debate and concern.
Awareness about autism in India is surrounded by a lot of myths and social stigma; a lot needs to be done to bring the autistic individuals into social mainstream.
Institutions like CBT 2 (Child Behaviour therapy with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) are doing a commendable job in reaching out to the masses and bringing joy to children suffering from Autism and their families.