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World Autism Awareness Day 2019 today: Stigmatisation, lack of awareness still remain leading challenges

On the night of 2 April, don't be startled to see the world up blue because the international community joins in every year this day to celebrate the World Autism Awareness Day by lighting up hundreds of thousands of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world, with blue lights.

The United Nations marked the day as a global event in 2008 to speak out against discrimination faced by autism patients, celebrate the diversity of the global community and strengthen the commitment to the full inclusion and participation of people with autism. And when it comes to mental illness, a world of a difference can be made by spreading compassion and awareness to ensure early medical intervention and the right support to such individuals.

However, there are still major barriers to the use of assistive technologies, including high costs, lack of availability, lack of awareness of their potential, and a lack of training in their use. Available data indicate that in several developing countries more than 50 percent people with disabilities who need assistive devices are not able to receive them. The stigmatisation and discrimination associated with neurological differences remain substantial obstacles to diagnosis and therapy.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication as well as by unique strengths and differences. It is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There is no cure for it, but therapy and behavioural guidance can substantially improve quality of life.

 World Autism Awareness Day 2019 today: Stigmatisation, lack of awareness still remain leading challenges

Representational image. Reuters

Once autism is diagnosed, multi-factorial approach with behavioural interventions, sensory stimulation, speech therapy, occupational therapy, which focus on the development of social skills, language, communication and daily skills, are needed to deal with the disorder.

The rate of autism in all regions of the world is high and the lack of understanding has a tremendous impact on the individuals, their families and communities.

Types of ASDs one should be aware of are:

Autistic Disorder ("classic" autism): This is the most general form of autism. People with autistic disorder typically have significant language interruption, social and communication challenges, and unusual behaviours and interests. Many people with this disorder may also have intellectual disability.

Asperger Syndrome: People with Asperger syndrome, have mild symptoms of autistic disorder. They might have social challenges and unusual behaviours and interests. However, they typically do not have problems with language or intellectual disability.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS): It is called as "atypical autism". People who meet some of the criteria for autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome, but not all, may be diagnosed with PDD-NOS. People with PDD-NOS usually have fewer and milder symptoms than those with autistic disorder. The symptoms might cause only social and communication challenges.

A decade ago, very few parents were aware of autism. With the onset of globalisation and in the digital era, more people are familiar with autism now than ever. Governments, doctors, NGOs and parents came together to spread increased awareness about autism.

It is not adequately comprehended in rural India yet; it is time to educate especially parents and children with the age-old traditions, superstition and blind faith. Autistic children are targets of bullying, more likely to be victimised, and the society shuns people with autism. Indeed, the challenge now is — acceptance, empathy, inclusion, open-handed and understanding of autistic's struggles and triumphs.

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Updated Date: Apr 02, 2019 08:23:58 IST

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