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World Autism Day 2017: ‘Toward Autonomy and Self Determination’

World Autism Day 2017: ‘Toward Autonomy and Self Determination’

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  • World Autism Day 2017 is celebrated on April 2nd to raise awareness about autism and discuss how rights of people with autism can be upheld in the society.
  • Ms Saima Wazed Hossain has been designated by The World Health Organization South-East Asia Region as its champion to enhance commitment and to improve awareness about autism
  • A special autism carnival is being conducted to provide a platform for autistic children to showcase their talents in Delhi.

World Autism Day 2017 is celebrated on April 2nd to highlight the issues faced by children with autism, their struggles and the need for society to support their well-being. Autism is a condition that limits social skills of the child with an increased tendency for repetitive behavior. In spite of the affliction, men and women who have grown up with autism, have contributed significantly to literature, technology, art and business. An increased awareness about this condition would aid in better acceptance in society.

Theme: 'Toward autonomy and self determination'

In view of World Autism Day, the United Nations has asked for the rights of people with autism to be upheld. Autism affects more than 70 million people across the world. The secretary General of The United Nations, Mr.António Guterres, said that the society should ensure that the required accommodations and support are provided to people with autism. This will help them face life with a lot more enthusiasm and help them feel empowered.


World Autism Day 2017: ‘Toward Autonomy and Self Determination’

The WHO states that 1 to 2% of the world population is afflicted with autism spectrum disorder, with 1 in 160 children being afflicted by this condition. Autism is a neurological disorder that appears in the first three years of life and there are a varying range of symptoms from mild social and communication difficulties to associated learning difficulties. A special event to mark the World Autism Day 2017 was conducted by the United Nations in New York and to raise awareness about this condition.

The Under-Secretary-General for Public Information, Cristina Gallach, said that there was a need to make sure that the fundamental rights of people with disabilities was known and respected.

To commemorate World Autism Day (2nd April 2017), the President of The United States, Mr. Donald Trump announced that the White House will be lit blue. He stressed the need to improve awareness and care for people with autism and to uphold their rights in society.

World Autism Day in the Asian subcontinent

Ms Saima Wazed Hossain has been designated by The World Health Organization South-East Asia Region as its champion to enhance commitment and to improve awareness about autism.

Her role involves spreading knowledge among parents and caregivers and addressing the suffering of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said "Ms Hossain's dedicated and unprecedented efforts have put autism high on the health agenda in her country Bangladesh, and helped get substantial regional and global attention to autism spectrum disorder and other mental and neurodevelopmental disorders. Her support as Regional Champion is expected to garner momentum for awareness and action in member countries, as much remains to be done for autism in across the Region,"

Unique Carnival for World Autism Day in New Delhi- 'My Playground'

Center for Child & Adolescent Wellbeing, a Delhi based organization is conducting its 5th Autism Carnival which aims to be the much needed awareness enhancement event. The carnival promises to be a lot of fun for the parents and the children, but it is not limited to fun alone, as it also meant to be a platform for these children to bring out their innate talents. There are many Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) -friendly games, music and dance programs, talent shows, sensory activities, and fancy dress acts. 'Spectrum Stars' is a special category where children with interesting talent can showcase their abilities.

Ms. Indu Chaswal, an expert therapist and parent of child with autism says, "Feel like you are sitting in a chair that has a broken leg, wearing heavily starched clothes and there are loud noises all around you. What if you do not have the words to express your predicament? This, precisely, can be a moment of life for a person with Autism." 

Dr. Deepak Gupta, child and adolescent psychiatrist and the founder of Center for Child & Adolescent Wellbeing points out that, "Children with autism may not look at you in the eye, may not listen to what you are saying and may keep on talking without any social relevance. They may flap their hands or twirl their fingers and people around will find this behavior odd".

Dr. Gupta adds that people with autism have certain activities or interests that they like to be involved in, perhaps in a manner that is more intense and focused than others. More often these interests become skills that they can excel in. "With appropriate support, children under Autism Spectrum Disorder can accomplish many regular tasks done by all of us. We need to create greater levels of understanding and an accepting world. The World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) is a precise expression for inculcating a deep understanding," says Dr. Shilpa Gupta, a parenting coach and therapist running the Parental Support Wing of CCAW.

Every child under Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is unique in his or her own way, an attitude that our society is yet to understand and appreciate. Normality itself is a human construct and open to debate. "Though medical interventions are moving at a slow pace, but with constant efforts we will certainly be able to achieve a big breakthrough in near future," says Dr. Deepak Gupta.

Due to lack of awareness about ASD, recognizing the same in one's child becomes more challenging. Ms. Indu Chaswal concludes, "There is a prime need for raising awareness so not only does detection become easier but ways for beating the day-to-day challenges may readily be derived from continuous community support. Autism Carnival is a free awareness centric event, involving panel of experts and allied professionals."

In India there are few support groups on Autism Spectrum Disorder and what is required is awareness among parents, schools and teachers so that we pick up these learning disorders early. The theme for 'World Autism Day 2017' to provide autonomy and self determination is the second step, however the first step is awareness of the disorder.

References :
  1. President Donald J. Trump Proclaims April 2, 2017 as World Autism Awareness Day - (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/03/31/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-april-2-2017-world-autism-awareness)
  2. World Autism Awareness Day - (http://www.un.org/en/events/autismday/)
  3. UN calls for recognizing the rights of people with autism to make their own decisions - (http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56478#.WN9XQtKGPIU)
Source: Medindia

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