Special Correspondent

"Bring sense of equality among children"

  • "Information and technology can lead to a solution to their problem"
  • Lauded Tamana's efforts in helping a 12-year-old autistic child recover

    NEW DELHI: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Wednesday outlined five key areas for focussing research in identifying and treating causes of autism, saying researchers must direct their efforts in bringing about a sense of equality among children affected by autism.

    "Equality can be generated by prevention, early detection, appropriate training to acquire certain skills and engaging the minds of affected children in productive efforts to enable them to lead a normal life," he said.

    Inaugurating an international conference on `Unravelling Autism: Causes, Diagnostics, Interventions,' organised by Tamana, an NGO for the mentally challenged and autistic and the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum, the President said that research must identify if autism was both genetic and environmental. "There are no established biological markers. There are 20 autism related genes that have been discovered so far. What is inherited and how broad the inheritable genotype is, still remains unclear," he said.

    With the emergence of new brain imaging tools, researchers can make a breakthrough in characterising the brain of autistic children. Other research areas suggested by Mr. Kalam included a study to find out if occurrence of autism was dominant in nuclear families or joint families or showed any bias on rural or urban environment; special psychological packages based on experience of mothers, psychologists and care givers to autistic patients should be evolved; if music and occupational therapy can improve the condition of children with autism.

    Calling upon researchers to work with a mission of making humanity autism free, the President said that it was necessary to network research experience across the world so that a common knowledge base was developed and the data could be used through on-line web services.

    Disclosing that he himself was working with Father George, a researcher, for the last three years on a research programme on mentally challenged children, Mr. Kalam said the research was aimed to find integrated solution using technology, software and hardware application to achieve a near normal functioning of the brain of mentally challenged children. "One day convergence of information and communication technology, medical electronics, bio-technology, nano-technology and mathematical simulation can lead to an integrated solution to their problem," he told the gathering of researchers and experts from U.S., SAARC countries, U.K. and Canada.

    Mr. Kalam was confident that it would be possible to transform certain functions of the damaged portion of the brain by some triggering mechanism or by implanting a bio-chip to carry out those functions.Referring to the case study of a 12-year-old girl Nancy, given by Dr. Shayama Chona, President of Tamana, on how an autism affected person can recover to a near normal state due to the constant care in Tamana, the President lauded her efforts in evolving a certain methodology of life and education in treating and managing autistic and mentally challenged children.