Few things in the world are more
heart-breaking than the plight of a child with autism struggling to cope with
today's fast paced world. Though Autism Spectrum Disorders range from mild to
serious disability, many autistic persons display exceptional abilities in
visual skills, music and academic skills. As a parent what you need to know is
that Autism is not caused by bad parenting but is due to the
abnormality with the emotional circuits in the brain. It is like the wires of
the circuit board getting wrongly connected.
the eve of World Autism Day, Medindia
heard the views of Dr. Anjana Thadhani,
Consulting Developmental Pediatrician at
Niramay Guidance Clinic & KEM Hospital, Mumbai
, who deals with numerous
cases of children suffering from Autism.
Q. Tell us some typical symptoms of
autism that you've come across among your patients?
The symptoms vary greatly from
patient to patient depending on the severity and age of the child. Smaller
children present with speech delay, hyperactivity and difficulty
in following instructions or learning
. These children usually have poor
eye contact, excessive shyness, poor speech, repeating the same words,
excessive clinginess to toys, spinning, rocking etc. Some patients may show
aggression and biting behavior. Q. How important is it to recognize
the early signs of autism and see a medical expert for early intervention
It is very important to seek
professional help because the earlier the behavior is picked up, the better is
the outcome. Accurate diagnosis is important along with grading of the
condition. The patient has to be monitored regularly during early intervention.
Can a woman reduce her risk of having a child with autism? A.
At present, there is no antenatal diagnostic test for
detecting autism during pregnancy. However the risk in the sibling is higher if
one child is affected with autism.
Tell us from your experience, any proud and satisfying moment in treating a
child with autism?
We had a very satisfying experience with our youngest
patient, a 20 month old child who recovered remarkably well after 1 year of
intervention. This further strengthens the importance of early intervention.
Another follow up autistic adult is completing graduation this year and although
he still is a loner and avoids eye contact, he is moving towards self reliance
and self confidence
Tell us some common myths and facts of autism that can help create better
awareness among the general public?
Myth: Autism can get cured completely with
Autism is a
neurodevelopmental condition and hence does not go away, but the various
therapies and medications help individuals with autism lead a near normal life.
Myth: Autism is an emotional or mental health
While physical or
social behaviors of individuals with autism may suggest that they have a
psychological disorder, autism
is actually a biological illness that affects the brain's growth and
Myth: There is an autism epidemic at present.
"epidemic" often implies a sudden increase in the number of
individuals within a fixed time who have a particular ailment—in this case,
autism. Yes, the number of cases has increased due to more social and media
awareness about autism and more and more cases are getting diagnosed.
Myth: Autism is more
common in America
This is a common
belief that autism is a western disease but this is not true as we do see a lot
of autism in India since the last decade. Earlier these children were
misdiagnosed as having mental impairment or other psychiatric conditions.
Autism is a result of bad parenting.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder and since it manifests when the child
is around 2 to 3 years of age, it is often attributed to bad parenting, but in
fact it has very little to do with parenting skills.
Some tips to parents/caregivers to improve their care for children with autism?
Parents and home based program are the backbone of effective
treatment plan for Autism. During the long intervention period parents are
involved in the therapy. As the problem is usually with behavior, the behavior
modifications are discussed with the parents and they are told to follow the
same at home. Individual attention and special care is needed to manage
specific behaviors. The most difficult part is however the acceptance by the parents that
their child has autism.
Temple Grandin, professor at Colorado State University and autism activist sums
it all very well - 'Mild autism can give you a genius like Einstein. If you
have severe autism, you could remain nonverbal. You don't want people to be on
the severe end of the spectrum. But if you got rid of all the autism genetics,
you wouldn't have science or art. All you would have is a bunch of social 'yak
Dr. Anjana Thadhani rightly observes, autistic children can be tuned to become
achievers. Though a child diagnosed with autism can
make parents very anxious, there are many success stories of remarkable people
around the world on the autism spectrum who have been a source of inspiration
even to 'normal' people. If there is enough awareness among everyone that
persons with autism just have 'a
different way of viewing the world' then it will be easier for those on the
autistic spectrum to live with others without a struggle and make valuable
contributions to society.