More needs to be done in terms of services and schools, they say

The city marked World Autism Awareness Day on Tuesday, with a number of activities to raise awareness about the developmental disability.

Autism refers to a group of complex disorders of brain development. Autistic children, who could have intellectual disabilities, difficulties in motor coordination and attention as well as physical health issues, can be helped lead near-normal lives, if intervention takes place early, say experts.

“Often, even parents find it difficult to cope if the child has mild disabilities,” said paediatrician Sarada Srinivas. “In our office we increasingly see a lot of children with autism. This does not mean that the incidence has increased, only that more people are coming forward to report it,” she said, adding that children with mild autistic features are often difficult to identify early.

What causes autism is still unknown, but studies have found that there is some disruption of normal brain development in people who have the disorder, she said.

Parents should consult a paediatrician if the child refuses eye contact, is poor in verbal and non-verbal communication and is socially aloof. Such children’s sensory responses are also abnormal to sound and touch. It is important that the family is counselled, she added.

Dr. Sarada was addressing a gathering of parents with autistic children and supporters at a programme organised by the Madras Round Table 1 on Tuesday.

Gita Srikanth, founder of We Challenge Autism Now (We CAN), said her organisation is at present training only 20 children as there is a dearth of trained educators for such children. Symptoms that parents should look out for are the inability of a child to use language or being repetitive in their work, she said While services for children have improved largely in cities and even small towns are now somewhat equipped with such schools, there is much more that needs to be done, she added.

Meanwhile, INOX, Chennai in association with SWABHIMAAN-Holistic solutions for Autism, conducted a painting competition and released a poster to create awareness about autism.

Twenty-five children with autism participated in the painting contest.

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