New study highlights that autism goes undiagnosed among one-fourth of kids
Recently, a group of American researchers conducted a study and pointed out that one-fourth of the children less than eight years of age with autism are not diagnosed. The numbers are at a rise in India where people are still unaware of what autism is. Doctors and experts point out that we have a long way to go when it comes to diagnoses and early intervention of autism.
A recent study by a group of American researchers have thrown light on the importance of early diagnosis and intervention for autism. The study points out that one-fourth of the children who are less than eight years of age with autism are not diagnosed with the developmental disability. The situation is not any different in India. Chances are that the numbers are on a rise here. Over the past many years, many awareness programs have been held across the country. The society has recently started to know about what autism are its symptoms are. But doctors and experts say that we still have a long way to go when it comes to identifying and diagnosing autism.
The American study
Researchers at the Rutgers University analyzed the medical and education records of over 2,66,000 children below the age of eight years across the United States before arriving at the results. This study was published in the journal Autism Research.
There may be various reasons for the disparity, from communication or cultural barriers between minority parents and physicians to anxiety about the complicated diagnostic process and fear of stigma – Walter Zahorodny, co-author of the study.
In spite of children showing symptoms of autism, parents even today, fail to get expert advice for diagnoses or start early intervention. Autism goes unnoticed.
Symptoms that the child showed are often considered to be a behavioral or medical issue.
The Indian context
In India, even today, autism is considered to be a mental disability in many parts of the country. The government has included autism as one of the disabilities in the RPWD Act, 2016. But authorities have failed in introducing programs and welfare activities for children with autism or their parents.
Dr U Vivek, Consultant Psychiatrist from Kerala says that though the situation is getting better, we still a long way to go.
“We have been sensitizing parents, teachers and doctors. So awareness programs are happening. But sometimes, people misdiagnose an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) for autism or speech issues. What our children need are proper and correct diagnoses. Many people are still in denial. A child with autism needs to start therapy before they are two years of age. That is why early diagnoses is important – Dr U Vivek, Consultant Psychiatrist.
Sruthi More who is an occupational therapist, is the Founder of Samphia Foundation. Sruthi, based out of Himachal Pradesh says, “There is a general lack of awareness about disabilities in this part of India. While physical disabilities are noticed easily, autism is often ignored. That is one of the reasons why children are not diagnosed at a young age. But I have noticed that things are getting better now. Recently, we celebrated world autism day in Kulu”.