It is safe to say until movies like Taare Zameen Par, My Name is Khan, Koi Mil Gaya and Barfi were made, most of the Indian population didn’t even know about autism. Thanks to the picture media — this condition was at least addressed.
But, what now? Are people aware of this condition? Or, is it still the same old scenario? How do Indian families perceive it? And, what kinds of treatments are available for this condition?
These are some intriguing and significant questions that leave us wondering about the existence of Autism in India. Let’s follow-by and try to find out the answer to these questions.
The Disheartening Picture of Autism in India
In India, neurological and mental conditions are acknowledged as embarrassing and unmentionable. As the major population still resides in the rural areas, the awareness about autism is highly inadequate. It is often mistaken with other conditions and remains largely undiagnosed.
At one level, people living there are so absorbed into the life of the community that there are chances of the negligence of the condition. On the other hand, the handful of those who show concern, receive incomplete information for the cure which is indeed devastating.
According to a study, Indian parents’ viewpoints differentiated from traditional, scientific or professional ones and often invoked spiritual, moral, or personal interpretations. Besides, Indian parents recognize symptoms of autism 6-10 months later than families do in the West.
When discussed, it was found that potential reasons were given for the delay in seeking help including beliefs like boys speaks late, which possibly defeats the purpose of identifying early unusual behaviors.
Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurological disability that is present since birth and can be identified as early as 18 months of age. It is a serious, incurable mental disorder that hinders an individual’s ability to communicate and interact. A person with the autistic disorder often repeats a particular behavior again and again. They may also have sensory issues. To put it differently, people with autism have difficulty in understanding what emotions look like and what the other person is thinking.
As per a source, around 2.2 million children of age group 2 to 9 years are living with this condition. There is no particular cure for this disorder as it varies from individual to individual. However, early diagnosis has helped many to reach their full potential.
What Causes Autism?
There is still uncertainty behind the cause of autism. It appears that a number of different factors like biological, environmental and genetic are more likely responsible for this disorder. In a few cases, autism is caused by:
- Encephalitis (neurological inflammation)
- Rubella (measles) in the pregnant mother
- Fragile X syndrome (the inherited form of intellectual disability)
- Untreated phenylketonuria (PKU) – Lack of an enzyme required for normal metabolism
- Tuberous sclerosis (an uncommon genetic disorder causing benign tumors to grow)
How Is It Perceived in Indian Families?
Imagine how frustrating it would be if you were unable to express your feelings. Where everyone around would just see you as a burden, and there is hardly anybody in existence that actually might want to stick around. Sounds upsetting, right?
Well, this is just a glimpse into how an autistic person feels in an Indian family environment.
In most families, parents of an autistic child often go into denial and find it impossible to believe which leads to delay in treatment. In addition to this, some families just seek solace from the notion that their autistic child is a result of ‘past karma,’ and so the child was meant to be born with it.
On the other hand, many parents take it downright towards religious beliefs. They perceive prayers as a powerful tool in the betterment of their child.
Families that are unable to handle the trauma of dealing with an autistic child, often have conflicts. In extreme cases, some even isolate themselves socially to avoid unnecessary questions.
There are only a few families that try to cope up with their child’s condition. They effectively devise approaches for creating a safe, loving environment for their child despite the various situations, financial restrictions, and limited services.
What Can Be Done?
While there is no particular treatment for autism, there are cures and theoretical approaches that can tackle some of the challenges.
- Dietary Approaches: The dietary cure is based on the grounds that lack of vitamins and minerals or food allergies can be warning signs of ASD. Therefore, a healthy diet suggested by a pediatrician is recommended.
- Behavior and Communication Approaches: This type of method helps children in finding direction, structure, and organization to their difficulty.
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM): Also known as integrative medicine, this treatment includes chelation, special diets or body-based systems (like deep pressure). As this treatment is risky, most doctors do not recommend it.
So, if indications point out that a child may have autism, the first step is to seek a diagnosis. Certainly, there’s an enticement to ‘give them time’ and see if they learn. However, we suggest consulting a doctor ASAP. The early diagnosis helps in accessing support resulting in betterment of the kid. Knowing what we are dealing with isn’t the end of the road, it’s the beginning of the journey.
The blog is presented by Sharda Hospital, one of the largest super speciality hospitals in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR).