‘There is need to infuse a sense of equality into the life of these children'
CHENNAI: The former President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, on Friday urged researchers to focus on isolating the main causes of autism and spectrum disorders using the latest diagnostic technologies.
“Identifying the genetic and environmental factors that cause autism is the key to imparting proper training to children with special needs,” Mr. Kalam said, adding that the study of the brain structure could be done more efficiently with advanced diagnostic facilities.
In addition, environmental factors — such as the impact of joint/nuclear families on autism — must also be studied, he said.
“Mapping the brain structure of someone with autism will also provide opportunities to diagnose the condition better and fashion better treatment and training methodologies,” Mr. Kalam said.
Special psychological packages based on evidence from the research and experiential learning of mothers, teachers and caregivers could be evolved to train children, he added.
Mr. Kalam was speaking at the inauguration of ‘Learn 2010 — International Seminar on Inclusive Education' organised by Sankalp, an NGO that runs the Open School and Learning Centre for children with learning disabilities and autism.
Mr. Kalam added that any disorder in the human faculty leads to greater dependence on others, and consequently, the lowering of self esteem.
“There is a need to infuse a sense of equality into the life of these children, and the way to do that would be to focus on early diagnosis, engage them in skills and train them,” he said.
Mr. Kalam also spoke of ongoing research projects that involve technology, mathematical simulation and bio-engineering to work towards optimally involving a child with special needs.
N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, said there were many facets to the challenge of building a more inclusive educational system.
“While there have been heartening signs of improvement in levels of awareness, it is clearly insufficient. India has simply not done enough to respond to the needs of all children, especially children with special needs.
“The Right to Education Act makes punishable by law any attempt to deny children with disabilities admission in schools. But there is a big gap between the law on paper and its practice,” Mr. Ram said.
Sulatha Ajit, director (special education) of Sankalp, said the vision of the organisation was to provide holistic care for children with special needs.
“Over the last decade, Sankalp has been working towards creating self-reliant children,” Ms. Ajit said, adding that the seminar was organised as the first step in facilitating a better atmosphere for inclusive education.
France-Albert René, the former President of Seychelles, launched Sankalp's website, http://www.sankalpnet.org.