As 2nd April commemorates the World Autism Awareness day, we speak to Dr. Priti Arun, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Govt. Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Chandigarh and Joint Director, Govt. Rehabilitation Institute for Intellectual Disabilities (GRIID), Chandigarh and Dr. Wasim Ahmad, Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education (Intellectual Disability), Govt. Rehabilitation Institute for Intellectual Disabilities (GRIID), Chandigarh to know more about autism.
Parenting Autistic Children
Dr Arun explains that the challenge of parenting autistic children is more when their disability is severe. However, at the same time, the ASD children have some behaviours/skills where they are better than other typical children.
She elaborates, “The ASD children like routines very much, and for the same reason once they adopt a routine, they follow it without fail like putting everything in place after returning from school. Many mothers would wish their children to follow this. Some kids are very good with numbers/numerals and they remember all mobile numbers, debit card numbers and their passwords. That’s pretty cool!”
“ASD children are not able to tell a lie, they do not have that concept. They do not tease other children; do not make fun of them. They don’t understand humour either. For them, communication is only straight forward. Many of them have a limited choice of eatables, so mothers always know what to cook. They may have excellent memory for routes and maps, they can find their way to home or other places. The people sensitive to their needs find their strengths and work on that for their success, an example of the same is Dr Temple Grandin who became a Professor of Animal Science, Inventor, and a bestseller Writer. It’s not only the disability but also their unique strengths that are very important,” Dr Arun adds.
A neuro developmental disorder which is often referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Autism is basically a condition that is characterised by a wider range of deficits in social and communication skills, and repetitive behaviours.
“Children with autism exhibit a varying spectrum of symptoms and require appropriate therapeutic and educational services. Most of the children with autism appear like typical children but their odd behaviors may differ from them. They have a tendency to create and ‘live in a world of their own’. Autism can be diagnosed as early as 18 months and its indicators usually appear by the age of 2 or 3 years,” shared Dr Ahmad.
He further explains that the key causes of Autism include Prenatal complications due to certain drugs like valproic acid or thalidomide, history of viral infections, exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins, metabolic imbalances, and genetic mutations/ disorders.
“Autistic children tend to face an array of challenges in their personal, social and academic sphere such as sensory dysfunction, challenges in speech and reading comprehension, challenges in executive functioning, fine and gross motor challenges, and social communication difficulties,” explains Dr Ahmad.
However, despite these challenges, autistic children are blessed with unique strengths to succeed and Climate Activist Greta Thunberg stands testament to the same.
“A person with Autism is a human being in its purest form. They make us learn to maintain calm during odd times and to give unconditional love. Our son, Anmol, is very good in sports. He has recently won a medal in University sports and he continues to excel dedicatedly.” – Mr Sunil and Mrs Bhavna Aggarwal
· “Prabhroop is a moderately autistic child who is completely non-verbal. Despite finding it extremely difficult to comprehend academics, Prabhroop has excelled in sports and has made everyone around him proud. He is a master swimmer and a very good skater. He has won two gold medals in the Roller-skating event at the Special Olympics World Summer Games (2015) that was held in Los Angeles.” – Mrs Dilpreet Kaur Shekhon.