Get-hooked April 3, 2020
#SupportAutismAwareness – Autism awareness distant in India. Experts say why
This year, celebrations for World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April was low-key. The day highlights on importance of autism awareness in society, which is still lacking. People under autism spectrum disorder face discrimination. They are side-lined. It is important to include people with disabilities in the society because they can be change-makers in many positive ways. Experts talk to NewzHook on the importance of World Autism Awareness day and need for inclusion.
2 April is internationally recognised as World Autism Awareness Day. This year, celebrations were low-key because people around the world are under quarantine due to spread of Coronavirus. But many took to platforms like social media to spread awareness about autism spectrum disorder. In India, people still have a long way to go when it comes to being aware about autism. NewzHook spoke to experts from the disability field who shared their opinions and perspectives.
What is autism?
Autism need not be a disability by birth. Most of the children are diagnosed with autism by the age of five years or below. Thanks to technology advancements, parents are keeping a close watch on their child’s developmental milestones and seeking clinical help if needed.
Autism is a developmental condition characterized by challenges in social skills, repetitive behaviours and speech problems in some people. The needs and requirements of every child is not the same. Some people with autism might need very less support in their day-to-day activities. Some others will need it for the rest of their lives.
But with diagnoses and early intervention, people with autism can live independently and lead a normal life.
Need for autism awareness
The United Nations has been motivating countries to take efforts to raise awareness about autism across the world. NGO’s, disability rights activists and autism awareness groups use the colour blue to commemorate the day.
In India, awareness about autism is very less. Society is still not fully aware on how to interact with a person with autism. People under the spectrum are often side-lined and pushed back. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, has included autism as one of the disabilities. But in spite of that, people with autism are struggling for an identity in the society. Autism Awareness Day is also one to open up new conversations about the disability.
Seema Lal, Co-founder, TogetheWeCan, a parent support group in Kerala says that acceptance begins from home.
“There is definitely need for an autism awareness day. That means, there is a yearly reminder and we all get to know how far we have come in terms of cause, interventions and rehabilitation of autism. The biggest challenge faced by people with autism starts with being accepted and included at homes. Parent support, counselling, training and empowerment programs are limited. We are still focused on professionals working directly with children. So in many homes, children are not functional or independent. It is important to empower parents so that they understand the child well. We need to start from home. The foundation lies there”, says Seema.
Deepti Mathews is the Advisory Committee Member of Ernakulam Autism Club.
“Proper awareness about autism is still a distant dream, though it is much better now when compared to older days. Earlier, autism was considered to be a sickness. But the biggest problem today is that society still do not understand that kids with autism have behavioural issues. Only people who know in-depth about autism knows all that. It is important for society to look at a child with autism, smile and accept them for whoever they are”, says Deepti.
Inclusive education is need of the hour
According to some experts, lack of inclusive education is a big hindrance to growth and acceptance of children with autism.
Karen Karbhari is the Founder of Buddy Centre, a school that empowers children with disabilities in Pune.
“When it comes to accepting people with autism, the society has come a long way. But academics and schooling is still a huge challenge. There are different types of autism, including high and low productivity in children. That is why it is important to identify their academic skills. For parents, finding a school that suits their child is a huge challenge. There are very few inclusive schools in India. Even if schools accept them, parents of children without disabilities create problems. They tell that their children would learn bad habits from special needs children. I felt it is vice versa actually”, Karen.
Poornima Bhat, Founder of Arivu Trust for disabled children in Mangaluru highlights on importance of acceptance of children with autism.
“Awareness about autism was very less ten years back. Things are positive now and it is definitely better. But the present educational system is the biggest hindrance. The system is not clearly suitable for children with autism. That is why we need to make modifications and alter it according to the child’s understanding level. Once that is done, kids with autism can thrive”, says Poornima.
It is important to look at a child beyond their disability. Children and youngsters with autism, if included in society, can become change-makers in many positive ways.
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