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Beware the pitfalls of so-called autism cures, warn many parent support groups

Social media is full of therapies and medicines that promise a cure for autism. Many families, desperate and unaware, explore these therapies and are unaware of the enormous damage they can do. Parents of adults with autism are warning new parents to stay away from these fake cures.

The parents of five-year-old Vedhika* (name changed upon request) took to frequenting religious places and babas soon after the child was diagnosed with autism. Vedhika's parents believed her autism could be cured with such steps. Truth finally dawned upon them at a support group where members pointed out that autism is not curable.

Vedhika's is not an isolated incident. There are many parents like this who believe autism is curable. Lack of support, stigma and awareness keeps such beliefs alive and kicking. They introduce their children to various medicines and alternative therapies.

Most vulnerable and confused are new parents who tend to closely follow the Internet for solutions. This experts say is dangerous as much of the material on the Internet is unreliable. While some of it may be genuine, large parts are not.

In a welcome step, many parents of adults with autism are stepping forward to spread awareness amongst new parents. They are urging them to seek the right support at the right time as delaying intervention does more harm than good.

Sangeetha John, who has a child with autism, is among them.

Many new parents just want to come out of their situations, and are ready to do anything and spend money .They are most vulnerable. I came across a doctor who has a child with autism who planned to introduce the child to stem cell therapies and other medications. Autism is a wide spectrum and requirements of each child are different. - Sangeetha John, Parent to child with autism

Not just the Internet, many doctors and hospitals promote medications and therapies that claim to cure autism.

" Hospitals get paid when we go to doctors and buy their medicines, says John. "It is s business for them. Parents have to be aware and cautious.

There are many myths and superstitions associated with disabilities in India. Some parents believe that autism is caused by bacteria, fungal infections or poisoning from vaccines. In the bargain, many chemicals are given to the child in the hope of healing them.

"Autism is a lifelong condition. Therapies and social interactions are the best things to provide to your child, says Anita Pradeep, whose son has autism. She says parents have to stop looking for that magic cure. "Social media is an open platform without any filtering. You can post anything on social media. Parents have to be aware of what is right and wrong instead of following things without cross checking.

Instead, parents must focus on seeking the support of experts on the therapies that will best help their children. Seeking help from parent support groups is useful as well.

ALSO READ: Demand rises for portrayal of autism in Indian movies with sensitization

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