08 April 2010
By Risha Chitlangia
New Delhi, India
Developed By NIMH, Screening Instrument Will Make Major Difference In Treatment
“Till now, we have been using screening tools developed by western countries. But we don’t have any tool by which we can diagnose the severity of the disorder. ISAA is an effective screening tool and will make a significant difference in the treatment of autism, as we will know the severity of the problem,” said Prod P Jeyachandran, who was part of the team that developed ISAA.
Approved by the Union health ministry, the tool is yet to get clearance from the Union law ministry. Once cleared, it will help parents of autistic children avail special benefits from the government. “Though autism is recognised under the Disability Act, but parents of autistic children don’t get the same benefits given to parents of mentally–challenged people. This is partly because severity of autism couldn’t be categorized like mental retardation. But now this can be done,” said Prof Jeyachandran.
It took experts three years to develop ISAA, which has been extensively tested in the field. “Most of the existing screening tools help in diagnosing autism. These tools are special programmes for identifying the disorder but it often misses out on the different stages and degree of the problem. In this disorder each child is different and has special needs,” said Prof Jeyachandran, who is in town to attend a special Indo–US workshop on autism.
Organized by Tamana, an NGO for specially–abled individuals, in partnership with Indo–US Science and Technology Forum, the three–day workshop will focus on training doctors, school teachers, parents etc in screening autism, importance of early intervention and ways of dealing with autistic children. The workshop was inaugurated by chief minister Sheila Dikshit on Wednesday. “People with autism need special care. They can grow up into perfectlynormal human beings if the treatment starts early. We need to visualise them as perfect human beings and they will appear perfect to us. Early intervention can play a key role,” said Dr Shayama Chona, founder of Tamana.
Grealdine Dawson, chief science officer at Autism Speaks in USA, said: “We need to educate people, especially parents, about early signs of autism. They can pick up the disorder in the early stages. Early intervention will help treat the disease as a young mind learns faster. Symptoms of autism are visible in the first two–and–half–years of life. Unfortunately, a majority of autism cases are diagnosed at the age of four.”