29 March 2010
Meet Siddhart who was fond of scribbling since the age of two. He would play with colours and scribble on everything that came his way. However, if someone would stop him from doing so, he would throw tantrums around. His parents brought more colours for him thinking that the boy had an inclination for art and that they should promote him. But, days passed by and all that Siddhart did was scribbling. Finally, his parents consulted a psychiatrist and learnt that their child was suffering from autism. It has been several years since then and Siddhart is now in class III. Interestingly, this year he topped his class in the final examinations. Lucknow: The lesson to be learnt from Siddhart’s story is that one should not lose hope with autistic children. His story carries a message for parents whose children suffer with autism or its spectrum disorders. The message is: early intervention can help in training autistic children and integrating them with the mainstream society.
“Early identification and intervention can help autistic children lead a fairly normal life. The chief reason is that, in autism, there is rarely a problem in the child’s cognitive abilities,” said Naval Kant of Paramahansa Yogananda Society for Special Unfolding and Moulding (PYSSUM) Research and Training Centre that works for children with special needs. He was addressing the media at a workshop held on autism in the city on Sunday.
Experts from University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, namely director, centre for development and disability Prof Jane McGrath, his deputy Patrician Osbourn and professor in paediatrics, school of medicine Dr Catharine McClain also spoke on various technical issues related to autism. They pointed out that autism usually reflects on the social skills of a child. But with early intervention, the socalled problem behaviour can be moulded. “The best result of therapies are visible with early intervention,” they said. The problem arises because parents confuse autism with mental retardation. Experts point out that there is a vast difference between the two conditions. “…as a result, the ideal time for intervention slips out of hand, pushing the child behind other children of his age,” they stated.
Autism is basically a developmental disorder involving a spectrum of symptoms or behavioural patterns. Mental retardation, on the other hand, is a developmental disability that is marked by lower than normal intelligence and limited daily living skills. Mental retardation is either present in a child since birth or develops early in life, and therefore, identifiable in the first two years, whereas autism cannot be identified till a child starts speaking.Experts pointed out that paediatricians can play a crucial role in early identification of autistic children. As per the international data, autism is found in one in 1000 children.
- The child may hear his favourite song in the other room but may not hear his name from a distance as small as 2 feet.
- Understands language, but only with the help of clues.
- Does not learn simple things like ‘this is water’ or ‘that is a ball’ but can learn complex things of his own interest like solving a complex 90 piece puzzle or labelling the names of cars just by looking at their wheels.
- Will not look at big objects or pictures, but may find the small things of his own interest in the house.
- Will not bring “water” when asked to do so, but may get it when he wants.
- Will sit and play with items of his choice for 3–4 hours without moving, but may not be able to sit when asked to do so even for 2 minutes.
- In mental retardation all milestones are delayed while in autism all milestones normal except speech.
- Cognitive ability limited in case of mental disorder while i autism it differs from child to child. Some have limited abilities, others have normal while some may be blessed with exceptional cognition.
- Kids with mental disorder need a special school, while autism affected kids can be integrated into mainstream life.
- The former ones are low in learning, puzzles, matching but kids suffering from autism can be excellent in puzzles and matching.
- In mental retardation patients are not affected by changes while in autism some may be affected by small changes.
- Parents know from the beginning about the developmental delays in case of mental retardation, However, parents are generally unaware in case of autism till the child starts speaking.