Autism is not a curse, needs awareness

By Golam Rosul

DHAKA, April 25, 2017 (BSS)-“I am in a deep crisis as I have a child with autism. My husband and his family members blame me for this. Sometimes, they misbehave with me and my son. But what is my fault?”

This was the assertion of Suraiya Begum, a housewife, who lives in capital’s Uttara area. She has two sons Jahed (8) and Jayed (5). Of them, Jahed was born with the symptoms of autism. Her businessman husband always neglects his son and sometimes he misbehaves with the child and Suraiya.

Hailing from Austagram, of Kishoreganj district, Suraiya breaks into tears when she was describing her story. She said she was well-aware about autism but her husband and his family are not aware about it. As a result, they always misbehave with the ill-fated boy.

Like Suraiya, many mothers with autistic child are facing inhumane situation in the family and society. They always feel discomfort in every situation.

World Autism Awareness Day is being observed across the globe every year aims at increasing awareness among people about autism.

Autism affects approximately 1 out of every 150 children around the world. It refers to a neurodevelopmental disability defined by a number of behavioral features. Autism is a lifelong disability that presents multiple challenges for families at each stage of the life course.

Awareness about autism in Bangladesh is the demand of the day. Many people living in rural areas carry false conceptions about autism, and hence a stigma is attached to this mental condition. Thereby the problem is acting as a barrier in promoting the scientific management of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

In the last five years, government has made tremendous progress in reducing the stigma related to autism, and has taken necessary measures to address the concerns related to ASD.

As a part of the awareness campaign, the Centre for Neurodevelopment and Autism in Children (CNAC) was established in 2010.

In 2011, Bangladesh hosted the international conference titled “Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities in Bangladesh and South Asia”. In that conference, the Dhaka Declaration on ASD was ratified by seven regional countries.

It is acknowledged that parents play a vital role as a primary actor in the education of their children, so the aim is to support kids with autism in exercising their skills and competences, and to bring together all the actors who work with families.

Parents of children with autism play multiple roles in their kids’ life. They are often the first people to recognize a developmental problem.

According to Maleka Pervin, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology of Dhaka University, families with an autistic child often find it challenging to deal with this condition.

She said children diagnosed with autism often follow specific routines in their everyday life. Parents can rearrange their daily routines to accommodate to the child’s timetable, as children with ASD can be unpredictable, and are often unable to regulate their behavior. Parents can find resilience in their child’s autism diagnosis, and can even recognize positive ways in which autism has impacted their lives.

Dr Muzharul Mannan, Training Coordinator and Consultant Neurologist, Institute of Paediatric Neurodisorder and Autism (IPNA) of BSMMU told that in many developed countries where procedures for early identification and intervention services are well established, individuals with autism are able to lead fairly independent and productive lives and contributing members of society.

Unfortunately for most countries, especially developing ones like Bangladesh, such assessment and intervention procedures are fragmented and inadequately implemented.