New Delhi: Noting that "any disorder in human faculties" increases dependence on others and reduces the individual's self esteem, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Wednesday urged researchers to "direct their efforts in bringing about a sense of equality among children affected by autism".
Equality can be generated by prevention, early detection, appropriate training to acquire certain skills and engaging the minds of affected children in productive efforts to enable them to lead a normal life, the president said while inaugurating an international conference here on autism.
"This is an important step for finding a research based solution for the causes, diagnostics and interventions required for the cure of autism," Kalam noted.
Holding it was essential to evolve medical diagnostic methods in a standard form, he asked: "Is it possible?"
According to the president, observation of a child's communication, behaviour and developmental skills help in the diagnosis of autism.
"If suddenly a normal child at the age of two or three starts displaying delay in language, less communication skills and less social interaction, then it is a point of concern and the child has to be screened for autism," he added.
Admitting there "are no established biological markers" to detect autism, he also noted that 20 autism-related genes have been discovered so far.
"What is inherited and how broad the inheritable genotype is, remain unclear. Thus, autism is a behavioural syndrome which has more than one cause," Kalam contended.
He also spoke of the need for properly managing autistic children.
"Once autism is diagnosed, it is essential that patients are given proper training to improve their behaviour and skills. There is need for creating institutions for training of teachers and parents.
"More often than not an autistic person requires personal care and personal training which demands a patient to teacher ratio has to be low. Since most autistic children lose speech, well equipped speech therapy centres are required to develop speech and communication skills."
He lamented that autistic children cannot become totally independent in spite of continuous training and care.
"Hence, there is need for having lifetime care centres with proper lodging and boarding facilities and homes. Initiatives are essential for creating training and lifetime care facilities. There is also need for separate schools in different parts of the country with well-trained teachers," he noted.