Team Kowrk has partnered with Pehel, a Mumbai based organization to organize events and talks to create awareness about Autism and other similar disabilities. Our first initiative was a talk which can be watched here. Here is an article from Dr Kinjal Chandra on her experiences with some of the brave kids.
Mehul is a two and a half year old child who plays alone at home and school and doesn’t mingle much with kids around. He flaps his hands, is unable to speak and rarely makes eye contact with his teachers, parents and friends. His mother realized that something was wrong with his son. After consultations with doctors she came to know that Mehul had Autism.
“Autos” means “self”: Autism means being “ self engrossed”
Ø How Common is it?
According to a recent statistics, 1 in 68 children in India suffers from Autism. It is the 3rd most common developmental disorder, increasing at an alarming rate. It is estimated that around 18 million people in India have Autism and the numbers are rising.This means that we cross one person with Autism in our life may be at the doctor’s clinic, school or in community without realizing it.
Hence, to educate yourself about this disorder along with being aware and accepting of it, is the need of the hour.
Ø What is AUTISM?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autism, as it is commonly addressed is a spectrum which means that there is a wide variation in its presentation of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting the way the brain works – presenting itself as difficulty in social interaction, communication and repetitive unusual behaviors and perceptions. This disorder is present at birth, but manifests to detectable symptoms by the time a child reaches two and a half years of age.
Boys are affected more than girls with a ratio of 4:1. This gender disparity is attributed to many factors:- One of it being that female genetics has more tolerance towards harmful genetic mutations than boys to reach the diagnostic threshold.
Autism is a “spectrum” disorder; which means it has a “spectrum” of manifestations and a “spectrum” of causes. No specific cause has yet been identified as the sole or predominant cause for the disorder.
The following list may increase the risks of a child having Autism:
- Prenatal :
ü Maternal exposure to viruses like measles, mumps, rubella, cytomegalovirus, etc.
ü Use of anti-depressant medications during pregnancy.
ü Use of anti-epileptic medications like Valproic acid during pregnancy.
ü Folic acid deficiencies at the time of conception and pregnancy.
ü Thyroid hormone deficiency during 8th to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
ü Gestational diabetes and RA.
ü Increased stress levels during pregnancy.
ü It is one of the most important contributing factor but not the only cause.
ü Genetic mutations, re-arrangements , deletions and duplications affected by the air we breathe, the food we eat, lifestyle, sleep patterns, aging and experiences in life.
ü Genes specially responsible for language processing and output get affected along with other resulting in wide range of symptoms and can be passed on from generations.
ü Males contribute to new genetic mutations while females contribute to inherited genetic mutations.
- Environmental :
ü Alcohol consumption
ü Food contaminated with pesticides and herbicides
ü Consumption of increased levels of lead and mercury in foods like fish, water and also cosmetics.
Ø Early signs to look for:
Your baby or toddler:
- Does not make eye contact, such as looking at you when being fed or smiling when being smiled at
- Does not respond to his/her name being called.
- Does not follow objects visually or look at the object you are pointing at.
- Does not point or wave goodbye.
- Does not make noises to get your attention
- Does not initiate or respond to cuddling or reach out to be picked up.
- Does not copy your movements and facial expressions.
- Does not play with others or share joy and enjoyment.
- Doesn’t play pretend games or group plays.
- Is clumsy
- Unusual attachment with toys such as wheel of cars, lights and switches.
- Hand flapping.
- Is lining up toys
- Moves fingers in front of eyes
Ø What to do if you are worried:
If you observe any of the red flags for Autism;
Schedule an appointment with your Pediatrician:
Get your child screened for his/her developmental milestones at 3,6,9,18 and 30 months of age.
If anything is detected, he will refer you to a Developmental Pediatrician who will look into the child’s behavior and development, and interview parents. He/She will get the child’s hearing, vision tested along with genetic, neurological and other relevant medical testings will be carried out to diagnose Autism.
Seek early intervention services:
The diagnostic process can be tricky and can take some time. But you can start an early intervention as soon as you suspect your child has a developmental delay. Try and avoid the “wait and watch” approach. In early intervention you will be guided by Occupational therapist, Speech Therapist, Child psychologists and Special Educators to address the child’s play, social, motor, sensory, language, behavioural, pre-learning and academic skills along with others.
The child though has difficulties, may be gifted in many other areas like maths, visual learning and excel at computers, industrial designing, graphics to name a few.
With this disorder increasing at such an alarming rate, we as as society have to stand as one to support, educate, understand and accept people with various skills and abilities to integrate them into the mainstream be it schools, gardens, industries and workplaces.
As they rightly say “ Normal” is a dryer setting. Most of us are unique and that originality is a beautiful thing in our community that should be acknowledged and celebrated not “ LABELLED and SEGREGATED”