The Indian Scale for Assessment of Autism is meant to assess the seriousness of autistic features in a child

It’s been two years since the Indian Scale for Assessment of Autism (ISAA) was handed over to the ministry of social justice and empowerment, but it is yet to be gazetted, say activists.

Developed by the National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped, Secunderabad, the scale is meant to assess the seriousness of autistic features in a child, grade the symptoms, and evaluate the degree of disability, according to the website of the National Trust, a body under the ministry.

“Once the scale is gazetted, it can be used to get a disability certificate as well as an ID card, and provisions for education and jobs. I have been lobbying for it to be gazetted as soon as possible,” says Neeradha Chandramohan, director, National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities.

Gita Srikanth, director, We CAN, a resource centre for children with autism spectrum disorder, says, at present, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders–IV, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is used to assess children with autism.

The disability certificate given to children with autism classifies them as persons with mental retardation or, if parents insist, mental retardation with features of autism.

“Lots of parents do not take the certificate as they don’t want their child to be classified ‘mentally retarded’ if she/he is not,” she says.

“The Indian scale, if it delivers what it promises, will be welcome and very useful as culturally, it will be far more relevant in, say, viewing something as an ability or disability,” she says.

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When Chennai Central railway station was witness to twin bomb blasts on May 1, it took less than 10 minutes for the first ambulance to reach the spot. But what when the emergency services receive bomb threats?

At the emergency response centre of 108 ambulances, calls pour in throughout the day, seeking assistance for medical emergencies. Among these calls are a small section of anonymous callers who claim a bomb has been planted at some location.

In fact, callers have not spared their office premises, hospitals and even ambulances.

Though many of these threats turn out to be hoax calls, officials say they take up the time and effort of various agencies. The number of such hoax calls goes up during the summer vacation.

Often, these callers are children or persons who are mentally disturbed or alcoholics. “Usually, we get at least three calls a month. This May, we got 12 such calls,” says K. Bharathidasan, head of Emergency Response Centre-108 ambulances. Interestingly, eight of the 12 callers were children, he notes.

Once such a call is received, the nearest police station is informed, followed by the district superintendent/commissioner of police.

“We keep the ambulance teams on alert. We get at least four calls a year claiming the bomb is on our premises — the Government Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women and Children, Triplicane,” says B. Prabhudoss, head of hospital relations and marketing, GVK EMRI.

Officials point out there is no chance complacency and each call is handled with a sense of emergency. “We wait till the bomb squad scans the entire area and declares it is clear. We have to keep the engine running till then,” he says.

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