Autistic Patients Labelled 'Mentally Retarded' in State
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29 April 2010
Body formed by Government of India in 2001 recognises autism as a different form of mental disability
With April being observed as the month for raising awareness on autism, most NGOs are trying to build a distinction between autism and other mental disabilities.
But most government hospitals in the state are still signing the health certificates of autistic patients as ‘mentally–retarded’.
Most parents of autistic children have routinely complained about being given a certificate of mental retardation even after demanding one for autism.
Deena Jethwa, the parent of an autistic child said: “With this certificate, the child is labelled ‘mentally–retarded’. This creates a lot of problems socially. Not many schools in the city have a separate provi sion for such children. We had specifically asked for a certificate of autism but even after running from pillar to post, we are being still given one of mental disability.”
Incidentally, the National Trust for the Welfare of persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disability –which was formed in 2001 under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment – recognises autism as a different form of mental disability.
Prabha Mehta, founder of Disha Charitable Trust, which works for autistic patients, said: “;Autism is fairly a new type of mental illness and there is still a lack of awareness about the difference between autism and other types of mental disabilities. An autistic child is much more capable in various activities which a mentally challenged child is not. Clubbing all categories of mental disability into one mars the scope for development and exposure of an autistic child.” An autistic patient avails the same benefits of insurance and free transportation facilities in bus and trains like mentallychallenged people. “The patient has to undergo an IQ test at the Civil Hospital on the basis of which the certificate of autism is given. The certificates are a recent addition,” said Ishwar Chaudhary, Social Defence Officer, Vadodara.
When asked for the number of patients given certificate for autism, he said, “We do not maintain a separate list of autistic patients, so it would be difficult to tell the exact number of such patients.”