Awareness and empathy can embolden Autistic people (April 2 is World Autism Day)

April 1st, 2012 - 5:33 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 1 (IANS) Whether an unreasonable airline denies them a seat or an inconsiderate doctor refuses to examine them, autistic people have for long faced unnecessary discrimination for no fault of theirs. Experts nonetheless believe that awareness and a little empathy are the only solutions to improve the situation.

Worldwide, April 2 is celebrated as the World Autistic Awareness Day to highlight the need to help improve the lives of children and adults with Autism so that they can lead full and meaningful lives.

Autism is an incurable complex neurobiological condition that impacts communication, behaviour and social relationships and affects 1 in 110 people. It has become the fastest growing global disorder.

“Autism is an invisible condition, that is, an autistic person may not necessarily be on a wheel chair or on crutches, so people don’t accommodate for the person,” Merry Barua, founder of NGO Action for Autism (AFA) told IANS.

“People tend to relate autism with rude behaviour and this is all because of lack of awareness,” she added.

As per Barua the discrimination against autistic people is a traumatising, especially for the parents and there is an urgent need to spread awareness to demystify it.

“I have had parents who complained that how some dentists refused to check their autistic kids because they won’t sit still. The doctors neither had the time nor the patience so they were shown the door,” said Barua.

For 36-year-old Abha Singh, it was a harrowing experience last year when she decided to fly from Kolkata to Delhi with her autistic 13-year-old daughter.

“She was sitting on her seat and just flapping her arms. The next thing we know we were asked to get off the flight as my child was a potential risk to the other passengers,” an infuriated Singh told IANS.

“Can’t they show a little compassion? what harm could a 13-year-old girl do more so when she is autistic,” lamented the north Delhi resident.

The parents further agreed that raising an autistic child can be quite draining both physically and mentally. However, at the end of the day the smile and cheers on their kid’s faces is all that matters.

“Raising an autistic child is tiring. But I know that my child is doing the best he can and is very happy in his school with his friends so that satiates me,” said Indrani Basu about his 19-year-old autistic son - Ayan who goes to a special school run by AFA in Delhi.

However, according to Barua, the one question that every parent with an autistic child fears is what will happen to their children after them.

Agreed Basu: “It’s the worst nightmare of a parent. But what we can do is to focus on today and work on the individual for their better tomorrow.”

Basu, who is also the parents training coordinator with AFA, said the NGO along with several other organisations working in the field have plans to set up residences for autistic people soon.

“They will live together like an extended family. It will be like a group home,” said the 40-year-old south Delhi resident.

According to psychiatrist Samir Parikh, chief of mental health and behavioural sciences department of Max Healthcare, apart from the awareness and empathy, it’s the parents who need to stop blaming themselves.

“I’ve seen parents who blame themselves for their child being autistic. That’s not the right attitude and would damage bot the parent as well as the child in the long run,” Parikh told IANS.

“The best solution is to be well informed about the condition and your childs’ abilities and have realistic expectation,” he added.

(Rahul Vaishnavi can be contacted at rahul.v@ians.in)

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