Autism or the autism spectrum disorder is characterized by degree of difficulty with social interaction and communication and showing atypical patterns of activities and behaviours, such as difficulty with transition from one activity to another, a focus on details and unusual reactions to sensations.
While some of them can live independently, many others need support and care lifelong. This apart, being autistic has an impact on the education and employment opportunities and also on the social stand of the individual.
This behavioural condition puts parents in a fix in diagnosing it, treating it and dealing with it. With limited information and only fewer people aware of it, it becomes a tough journey for parents as they get confused on how to embark on it.
We at ETimes, spoke to Pramod Mishra, Founder, Autism Parents Forum and discussed what autism is, how early parents should get it diagnosed, and many other questions related to autism in a child.
ETimes: When should parents actually get their kids diagnosed with autism? At what age autism becomes visible?
Parents should go for regular check ups. If you see warning signs or red flags like speech delay, poor eye contact, hyperactivity, repetitive solo play, no finger pointing, texture aversion, food aversion, toe walking and ignoring danger at 18 months, immediately consult a developmental paediatrician.
Mostly, the symptoms are not detailed enough by 18 months of age but remember your gut feeling as a parent is never wrong.
Which are the typical behavioural patterns observed in autism?
Lack or no response to own name, poor eye contact, solitary and repetitive play, delayed speech, eating issues, no finger pointing, are some of the typical behavioural patterns observed in autistic children. These patterns get more evident by 1.5 years.
ETimes: Who should parents go to in case of doubt?
Parents should be very particular about who they go to during the early stages. There is not much awareness about autism which is why parents go to several places and take innumerable consultations which end up in nothing. In order to get the best treatment and suggestions on autism parents should go to a Developmental pediatrician or a Child psychiatrist.
What should be the immediate response of parents after the child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder?
Gear up despite the shocker and pave the way to be an empowered parent. Read and learn management strategies. Connect with similar parents on our Autism Parents Forum and plan on initiating appropriate early intervention therapy ASAP. Time is precious!
ETimes: What is the current scenario of the education system for autism. Is it inclusive?
There are both inclusive and exclusive special schools. Inclusive education will be alongside normal kids with additional support from regular schools as mandated by law.
But the brutal ground reality lies in the fact that parents don’t get much support from schools despite mandated laws as most schools choose to ignore inclusive infrastructure, proper special educators etc. Also, regular school staff are not trained/aware enough to deal with special needs kids. These are huge constraints that limit good educational opportunities for autistic kids. Social stigma of mental health also seems to play a role in this vicious unjust outlook.
ETimes: Apart from regular education, what else should an autistic child be taught?
Focus on learning daily life skills – make the child as independent as possible. Teach the child every daily task in a simplified manner. Most importantly, be your child’s best friend as he or she struggles to communicate with the world.
ETimes: How does your organisation work in this?
We are a forum made by the parents of autistic children for other co-parents in the same boat. We organise regular free webinars by experienced therapists and professionals to empower our clan. We share our knowledge with each other and provide the essential information base and support to other parents.
We collaborate with experienced and extinguished therapists and arrange online consultation for parents who live in remote areas where there is no therapist or specialist availability. Through different social platforms (WhatsApp/Facebook Groups) we connect parents with each other where they discuss their daily issues without apprehension.
ETimes: How has been the response from the parents?
It has been overwhelming since we began and we have more than 15,000 parents pan India and abroad who have joined hands to be a part of the forum family. We share all intellectual material that can help us manage children better , we organise free webinars and work in unison to bring about autism awareness through our website www.autismparentsforum.com. We all also have taken the vow to connect with academicians and paediatricians to enable the best future for our children .
ETimes: What will be your message to the parents?
If you have an ounce of doubt about your child’s developmental delays please don’t ‘wait and watch ‘…..your child’s life is truly too precious and the sooner the diagnosis, the earlier you accept and initiate therapy- the better are your child’s chances at long term recovery. Don’t lose heart dear parents – just connect with us and we promise we will do everything together to help you find your way in this tough journey. Together we can sail through these challenges and find a better future for our autistic children.