Autism was an unfamiliar word in India until a few years ago, though it has been prevalent here since a long time. The condition was not diagnosed on account of ignorance, lack of necessary services or basic misunderstanding and misdiagnosis. The poorer ignorant class of people gave the condition religious overtones, believing it to be the wrath of God. Government apathy coupled with limited autistic service centers and skilled therapists, relegated the illness to the bottom rung of disease hierarchy, undeserving of medical treatment or proper care.
Inaccurate diagnosis has been the major hindrance in the treatment of autism in India. At the early signs of any development disorder in their child, parents usually visits a pediatrician, leaving with an assurance from him that their child was just ‘slow’ and would come around in time. A visit to the psychologist for a second opinion confounds the problem even more when the child is diagnosed as “mentally abnormal”. Unsatisfied and unwilling to accept this as the final verdict, parents approach a psychiatrist, only to be told that their child was ‘hyperactive’ and puts the child on a series of medication and sedation, without achieving any tangible reduction in the disorder.
Autism has spread its tentacles steadily in India and the government may face dire consequences if it continues to ignore the issue. Since a few years the awareness of autism has spread around the country and people need to demand better services and schools for children with autism. There is an acute dearth of special schools that can provide effective methods and techniques in handling the challenges of this condition. The school curriculum is pressing and rigid and they lack the means and knowledge to cope with the challenges that autism demands. There is also a need for residential centers and planning homes where autistic people without any family support can stay and be looked after.
Currently, the combined efforts of AFA (Action for Autism) and the Ministry of Health has forced the Indian government to acknowledge autism as a disorder and provide adequate funds, concessions and benefits to autism service centers, NGOs and schools as well as start a campaign to spread awareness and educate the people about this disability.
There are several autism service centers in India and their links are given below.
I.R.I.S. Institute for Remedial Intervention Services -,http://www.autismindia.com/
AFA (Action for Autism) - http://www.autism-india.org
Astalavista (Divine Welfare and Research Foundation)
ASI (Autism Society of India) - http://www.autismsocietyofindia.org/
SAI (Society for the Autistics in India) - http://www.saiautismcenter.org/current/index.htm
Autism – a battle to be won - http://www.akhilautismfoundation.org