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Getting disability certificates turns nightmare for children with autism

February 27, 2019

The passage of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPWD) years back brought much relief to many people in the disabled community. The number of disabilities recognized grew to 21, and this included Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Yet, children and adults with ASD are still struggling to get a disability certificate made so they can avail of the benefits. Lack of awareness amongst doctors and government authorities is making things hard for parents and caregivers.

Most parents say that doctors are unaware what ASD is and choose to categorise children affected with the disorder as mentally retarded.

Sarbani Mallick, Founder of the Biswagouri Charitable Trust in Bengaluru, runs an exclusive school for children with developmental disorders called Bubbles Centre. She says this ignorance on the part of doctors has serious impact.

When parents go with their children to get certificates, they have a tough time trying to make authorities understand what autism is. For instance, if the child is able to read or write, doctors say that he or she does not have a disability. Children with autism will be able to read and write. That is not a challenge for them. Their main challenge are communication and social skills. However, in many cases, children with autism are given an intellectual disability certificate, which is not fair. -Sarbani Mallick, Co-founder, Bubbles Centre

In spite of parents, special educators and experts conducting awareness campaigns, there is little initiative taken on the government's part. Parents still spend a substantial amount of time running around for a certificate.

Suba Rajesh is a Chennai-based parent with a son on the spectrum. She is an integral part of many parent groups and has witnessed their struggles closely.

"My son has a disability certificate which we got 10 years back. During that time, it was not a tedious process. We just had to provide the address proof and basic details. But nowadays, a lot of parents come forward to talk about the difficulties that they face in order to get a certificate for their child. Most of the time, medical officers give them certificates for mental retardation (MR) and they are forced to avail of those benefits."

Part of the problem, Rajesh admits, lies in that some parents resort to fraudulent methods and this leads to officials becoming strict.

There is some good news in the offing however, with the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment joining hands with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in an effort to make things better. Authorities have promised that better awareness will be provided to medical officers who are authorized to issue certificates.

ALSO READ: What causes autism? Some information

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