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Times of India
Lucknow, India
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.

Autistic
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.

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