I had first come across Autism, a long time back, when I had read an article in Reader's Digest about an Autistic girl, who had, with a lot of effort on her mother's part, had managed to overcome it to a great extent and live as much as a normal life as possible.
Since then, I remember reading a lot about it, but never really thought too much about it, until a colleague, told me that his 4 yr old son was diagnosed as Autistic and that he had come abroad simply because he was not able to get his son the necessary treatment in India. I had been pregnant at that time and to be honest, I had nightmares about it. Until then, I had just read about it, it was only after talking to him, that I realised how difficult it is to deal with it - for both the child and the parents. I have ever since, been reading quite a bit about autism.
Yesterday, I came across an article which was talking about the ethics of screening unborn babies for 'Autism'. Apparently according to the latest research, Autism is the result of an extremely 'male brain'. Autism is defined as a condition which brain development disorder ,characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. There was believed to be a link between immunization shots and Autism, which was later discredited, due to lack of information. Apparently, it was around the time of the MMR immunization, that children started exhibiting signs of autism, leading to the belief.
Children with autism often have extreme difficulty developing normal relationships with others. They tend not to share in the interests their peers have. In many cases these children are not able to interpret non-verbal cues of communication like facial expressions. Most people with autism have some impairment in language and many never speak at all. Children, with autism also tend to find change, very difficult to cope with. Autism is not a rare disorder, being the third most common developmental disorder, more common than Down’s Syndrome.
In India, I found this organisation - Action for Autism, which seems to be active in this field. Their website talks about how, until the 1980's there were hardly any children diagnosed with Autism in India.. Apparently, majority of children with autism routinely received a diagnosis of mental retardation. Their website also gives a lot of useful information for anybody with more questions on Autism.
Some of factors which complicate research and treatment of Autism in India is the lack of awareness. Social attitudes, political will and environment all contribute to lower early detection rates, which actually proves crucial in diagnosing and treating Autism.
The positive thing is , 'Autistic children can make significant progress if the intervention is appropriate and consistent. Depending on the child's individual skill profile and the appropriateness and intensity of intervention he or she receives, children with Autism can lead relatively independent lives.'
The more I read about autism, the more my heart goes out to every person who gets diagnosed with Autism and their brave parents who have to see their children through it all. I remember reading a mother's account, where she says, the only time it would really hurt, was when her daughter made no spontaneous gestures - like 'giving her mother a hug or a kiss or any such gestures of affection'! It just makes me thank god that we have been blessed with a healthy child! I just hope, that with the increased awareness and medical advancements, every child, gets to lead a happy and independent life
Other articles with information on Autism
I also came across an online petition requesting the PM to take up measures to address the issues raised by families with autistic individuals..
Edited to add : Just came across something else on the net today