Meghalaya still lacks trained professionals to cater to autistic children


By Our Reporter, TNT News | Shillong, April 02, 2018:

Meghalaya still lacks in terms of counsellors and trained professionals who would cater to the children suffering from autism spectrum disorder.

"We do not have enough counsellors and trained professionals to cater to the need of austistic children. We need more trained professionals since autism disorder cannot be cured through medicine. The only help which can be provided is by way of special kind of teaching," SAN-KER Director, Dr Sandy Syiem told newsmen after the procession held here to observe 'World Autism Awareness Day-2018' which started from Mawlai Petrol Pump to Don Bosco Museum at Mawlai Phudmuri.

Talking on the problem in the State, SANKER director stated that the prevalence of autism in Meghalaya is almost similar with the problem which is prevailing across the globe adding that around the world, the number of children with autism is 1 in 60, whereas in India, it is 1 in 100.

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"The only thing in Meghalaya is that people are yet to come out in the open to speak about the problem. Even though now that such programmes to deliberate on the issue are starting to come out," he said.

Reacting to a query, he said that in Meghalaya autistic children are not recognized, saying "they call them mentally retarded", where without a mental retardation certificate, such children cannot avail the benefits from the government.

"We want to change this because autism and mental retardation are two entirely different subjects," said Syiem.

Dr Syiem also revealed that many of the children who are suffering from autism are stigmatized, and also called retarded. "Now that we understand that they are different, we can help them in many ways," he said.

Asked on signs and symptoms related to autism, Syiem pointed out that most autistic children cannot speak and have less or no eye contact whatsoever.

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"Sometimes you can see it in their movements. They either jump in one place, move their hands, bang the table, and do all sorts of things that are repetitive," he added.

On the setting-up of Autism Boards by the government for certificates with regards to autism, Syiem added that "they will be of great benefit".

SAN-KER is currently catering to the needs of 25 autistic patients.

Meanwhile, Special Educator, Audrey Massar while speaking at a public discussion programme, said that the aim of the 'World Autism Awareness Day' is to look into the hurdles that children with autism and others living with autism face every-day and also to enhance the knowledge on autism throughout the world.

She also spoke on the theme, "Empowering Women and Girls with Autism" where she mentioned various rights of persons with disabilities like the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the Mental Health Act 2017, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities among others.

On the other hand, a woman of a six year old autistic girl child while describing her experience as a mother said, "This has changed my life. I am very lucky to have her because she is special. I get to know and understand more about her."