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AUTISM: Always Unique Totally Interesting Sometimes Mysterious

The united nations general assembly announced 2nd April as World Autism Awareness Day in 2008.Since then UN, with a number of other organisations have worked to spread awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder which affects a major portion of population across the globe.

On World Autism Awareness Day, we recognize and celebrate the rights of persons with autism. This year’s observance takes place in the midst of a public health crisis unlike any other in our lifetimes — a crisis that places persons with autism at disproportionate risk as a result of the corona virus and its impact on society.

Persons with autism have the right to self-determination, independence and autonomy, as well as the right to education and employment on an equal basis with others. But the breakdown of vital support systems and networks as a result of COVID-19 exacerbates the obstacles that persons with autism face in exercising these rights. We must ensure that a prolonged disruption caused by the emergency does not result in rollbacks of the rights that persons with autism and their representative organizations have worked so hard to advance. Governments have a responsibility to ensure that their response includes persons with autism.

Persons with autism should never face discrimination when seeking medical care. They must continue to have access to the support systems required to remain in their homes and communities through times of crisis, instead of facing the prospect of forced institutionalization.

We all have a role to play in ensuring that the needs of people who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 are met during this difficult period. Information about precautionary measures must be provided in accessible formats. We must also recognize that when schools employ online teaching, students with non-standard ways of learning may be at a disadvantage.

The same applies to the workplace and working remotely. Even in these unpredictable times, we must commit to consulting persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, and ensuring that our non-traditional ways of working, learning, and engaging with each other, as well as our global response to the corona virus, are inclusive of and accessible to all people, including persons with autism.

The rights of persons with autism must be taken into account in the formulation of all responses to the COVID-19 virus. On World Autism Awareness Day, let us stand together, support each other and show solidarity with persons with autism.

What is Autism?

Autism is a life long developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people around them. Children and adults with autism have difficulties with everyday social interaction. Their ability to develop friendships is generally limited.There are three key areas in which the development is affected.

  1. Social: Impaired, deviant and extremely delayed social development – especially interpersonal development. The variation may be from ‘autistic aloofness’ to ‘active but odd’ characteristics.
  2. Language and Communication: Impaired and deviant language and communication development – verbal and non-verbal.
  3. Thought and behavior: Rigidity of thought and behavior and poor social imagination. Ritualistic behavior, reliance on routines, extreme delay or absence of pretend play.

Characteristics/Symptoms:

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Disorders (DSM –IV), individuals with autism may show some of the following characteristics:

  • Avoidance of physical contact (For ex, an infant may arch the back when touched or become limp if picked up).
  • Delay or lack of language development.
  • Problems with both verbal and non-verbal communication (use of gestures to replace words or use of inappropriate words, short attention span, lack of eye contact, inappropriate or absence of facial expressions).
  • Echolalia (repetition or echoing of words or sounds made by another person).
  • Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to the developmental level (shows little or no interest in making friends).
  • Problems in social interactions and play (spends time alone rather than interacting with others).
  • Lack of spontaneous sharing of experiences with others.
  • Lack of or inappropriate social and emotional responses to others.
  • Unusual play activities (impairment or lack of imaginative play, little or no imitation of others, little or no “make – believe” play).
  • Over-sensitivity to touch; under sensitivity to pain.
  • Repetition of body movements, such as hand flapping or rocking.
  • Aggressive and/or self-injuring behavior.
  • Inability to understand the perspectives or thoughts of others.
  • Savant (extraordinary) skills which the average person does not possess (such as musical or artistic talent or skills in mathematics).
  • Need for and adherence to routines, rituals and “sameness”.
  • Unusual interest in objects or parts of objects.

Facts about Autism Spectrum Disorder:

  • In 20202 CDC determined that approximately 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with ASD.
  • Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.
  • It is the third most common developmental disorder.
  • Approx eighteen million individuals are on the autism spectrum in India.
  • ASD is a spectrum disorder, which means that every child with ASD has different skills, challenges, and needs.
  • There is no “cure” for ASD, but there are several interventions that can help children learn important skills that improve everyday life.
  • Individuals with autism spectrum disorder may be very creative and find a passion and talent for music, theatre, art, dance and singing quite easily.
  • There is no federal requirement for providing supportive services in adulthood. This leaves many families navigating these types of services on their own.
  • Vaccines do not cause autism.

Myths about Autism:

  • Autism is caused by bad parenting.
  • People with autism are intellectually disabled.
  • People with autism can’t understand the emotions of others.
  • Everyone with autism is either non-verbal or a savant.
  • People with autism are best suited for jobs that entail repetitive tasks.
  • Vaccines cause autism.
  • Autism is a childhood condition that can be outgrown or cured.
  • People with Autism prefer to be alone and do not want friends.
  • All people with Autism have the same skills and difficulties.

Instructional Methods in Teaching Students with Autism:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
  • Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT)/ Lovaas Model
  • Floortime or Difference Relationship Model (DIR)
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT)
  • Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)
  • Social Communication/Emotional Regulation/Transactional Support (SCERTS)
  • Training and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH)
  • Verbal Behavior (VB)

Therapies Used for Students with Autism

  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physical/ Movement Therapy
  • Sensory Integration Therapy
  • Speech Language Therapy
  • Special Education
  • Art based therapies.

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder need a supportive network of parents, professional, school and community. Early intervention plays a vital role in the management of Autism. We should focus on providing a congenial environment in which every child can learn. If they don’t learn the way you teach than try to find the way they learn. Reinforce their potentials, accept, support and love.

(Mr. Praval Yadav ; holds Masters in Special Education from reputed national institute for the empowerment of persons with intellectual disabilities, Secunderabad. He also holds Master in hindi literature, diploma in Special
Education(ID&ASD) and pursuing PhD in Special Education. Currently, working as a special Educator in Education department of SDMC. He had key role to set up three national level organisation in the field of education and disability rehabilitation. He is the visiting expert of Rehabilitation Council of India ,Amity University, DIETs,and other reputed institutions. He served as a consultant at Fortis hospitals,Institute of Child Development, Vibhor neuro care, OACD, and Angels foundation. He worked in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Delhi and Billabong High International school, Noida(UP). He has more than 10 years of extensive
experience in the field of Special Education and disability rehabilitation. Mr. Yadav is passionately working for the empowerment, inclusion, quality of life, independent living and empathetic services for individuals with special needs.)

1 Comment on AUTISM: Always Unique Totally Interesting Sometimes Mysterious

  1. Margshree India // April 2, 2020 at 12:49 am //

    Nice Article for Autism awareness

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