As every year 2nd April is marked by World Autism Awareness Day, it will be pertinent to understand the nature of the neurological disorder and how the well-being of people with Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be enhanced, writes Mrinmoy Bhattacharjee, Assistant Editor, Elets Technomedia Pvt Ltd.
World Autism Awareness Day, as declared by UN General Assembly on 2nd April is observed to shed light on the need for improving the quality of life for those with Autism and make the member of the public understand and accept the special people.
What is Autism?
According to the United Nations, “Autism is a lifelong neurological condition that manifests during early childhood, irrespective of gender, race or socioeconomic status. The term Autism Spectrum refers to a range of characteristics. Appropriate support, accommodation, and acceptance of this neurological variation allow those on the Spectrum to enjoy equal opportunity, and full and effective participation in society. Autism is mainly characterized by its unique social interactions, non-standard ways of learning, keen interests in specific subjects, inclination to routines, challenges in typical communications and particular ways of processing sensory information.”
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as World Health Organization (WHO), describes as “a range of conditions characterised by some degree of impaired social behaviour, communication and language, and a narrow range of interests and activities that are both unique to the individual and carried out repetitively.”
How Many Affected
An estimated one in 160 children has ASD globally. This estimate, however, is an average figure, WHO says, acknowledging that the figure varies “substantially” in studies conducted by different organisations. ASD figures could be significantly higher, particularly in many low and middle-income countries.
In India, it is widely held by experts that epidemiological studies of Autism have not been conducted in the country to conclude on the count of prevalence or incidence of the neurological disorder.
Rehabilitation Council of India, a Statutory Body of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment observes: “Estimates of 15 per 10,000 are now typical rising to 64 per 10,000 or even higher if the entire spectrum is included. Adults continue to be under-represented in population estimates of prevalence.”
The absence of “high-quality population-based epidemiological studies on ASD in India”, as Neurological Society of India notes, underscores an urgent need for studying the burden of ASD in the country. “The proper acquisition of data related to the prevailing burden of ASD in India would lead to a better development of rehabilitative services in our country,” it added.
Experts suggest that early childhood intervention is crucial for ensuring the wellbeing and development of children with ASD. They view that child development forms a part of routine maternal and child healthcare. They are of the opinion that such children and their families are provided with information, assistance, referrals, and support keeping in view of the specific needs of these children as ACD cannot be cured. Children with ASD should be engaged in individual-focused skill development and life-skill training for ensuring a less challenging life for them.
NGOs Catering to the Need for People with ASD
Action For Autism, Autism Society of India, Udaan, Asha, Ashiana Insitute for Autism, Communication DEALL, Development Centre for Exceptional Children, Priyanj, and We Can. Forum for Autism, and Shaurya Foundation Trust, among others, are involved in working towards the need for people with ASD.