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Times of India
2 April 2010
By Divya Sethi
Ludhiana, India

To many, ‘autism’ was probably a vague term till the recent release of Shahrukh Khan–starrer ‘My Name Is Khan’. The movie may have left more people familiar with the disorder, but it seems the society is yet to learn ways of accepting that people with autism are a part of the same milieu.

Despite education boards extending relaxations to autistic students, the schools are not very accepting of these children, leaving them alone to fight their battle. However, experts say with proper care, support and right guidance, even children suffering from the disorder can excel.

Painting a disappointing picture, Poonam Kalra, the activity coordinator of Darpan School, an institute for autistic children, said, “The scenario is the same as it was 10 years ago. Rules are made but nobody bothers to implement them.” Darpan organized an awareness camp at Delhi Public School on Thursday. “We will present a play to sensitize people about autism. Even if we can change the opinion of a couple of people, it will feel like a huge achievement,” Kalra added.

She further said, “With private centres and NGOs willing to extend their help, Central Board of Secondary Education too introduced guidelines to support them. However, the ground reality is abysmal. Schools say that they understand but when it comes to accepting these kids, they back out.”

Amarjeet, the centre head of Optimising Development in Education (ODE), a school for kids suffering from learning disability, said, “It feels bad that these children are not welcome in schools. Even if the institute admits the child, he is later harassed as other students call him ‘dumb’.” She said, “Autism occurs in 20 in 10,000 people and 80% of them are boys throughout the world. Anybody irrespective of profession can have an autistic child.”

Talking about the intelligence of autistic kids, she said, “He can make significant progress if intervention is appropriate and consistent. Early intervention before five years of age is helpful. Autistic children need behaviour modification to some extent, and though they are very loving, they avoid eye contact. Lots of love, affection and care can make life easy for these children and the parents. A little bit of care from teachers can make the kids perform very well.”

A senior teacher of a private school said, “A trained person is required to help these students. Admitting the students is not a problem. But the important thing is to treat them at par with others.”

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