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Shame: Why won't Mumbai support World Autism Day?

From birth, Chitra Iyer knew that something wasn't quite right with her son Shravan. As an infant, he never made eye contact. "We noticed that he was not doing the regular cooing or the babbling that children do, or even reaching out to toys and playing with them," Chitra recalled.

At the age of 3, Shravan was diagnosed with severe autism and cerebral palsy.

Autism is a severe disorder that impairs neurodevelopment. Those suffering from the condition require strict schedules that cannot be broken, cannot empathize with others, find it hard to make friends and social connections, and often suffer from severe bouts of loneliness.

It is World Autism Awareness Day today. At least 1 million people in India live with autism, which is a condition that is still very poorly understood. For many parents, one of the biggest challenges is teaching the world to adapt and accept their children.

The shadow of the yoga instructor during yoga classes for children with autism. Reuters

Worried about who will take care of her little one after her, Chitra, Shravan's mother, hopes science will catch up. But will it? Sixty years since the first known case of autism, there hasn't been still no cure found and even the case hasn't been fully understood.

Twenty years ago, 1 in 10,000 children worldwide were diagnosed with autism. Inexplicably that figure has risen to 1 in 160 childrean diagnosed with autism.

Over 300 iconic landmarks around the world will be bathed in blue light, to show support for 'Light It Up Blue', a worldwide initiative to help raise awareness about autism.

But while Rashtrapati Bhavan in the Capital city will change colour to show its true blue support for the campaign, the Mumbai's civic body has plunged the hopes of many in darkness, by refusing to follow suit. Forum for Autism, a support group comprising parents of autistic children from Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, penned a letter to the BMC officials, requesting them to light up iconic landmarks-- the Gateway of India or the BMC headquarters -- in blue. The BMC, however, has turned down the proposition, without offering any explanation for the denial, reported Mid Day.

Children in Mumbai conducted a march on Saturday evening at Ghatkopar, bearing placards sporting slogans related to autism awareness. They started out from Vikrant circle, went down 90 feet road to Vallabh baug lane, before winding back to the starting point via MG Road.

Walking an extra mile to promote the cause, actor Salman Khan has joined the campaign to spread awareness about autism in kids and says that autism is a disorder, not a disease. He says, "Accept the autistic child the way he or she is."