Ontu, a three and half-year-old boy is the first baby of his parents. From his early childhood, his mother noticed that Ontu does not speak according to his age, does not interact the way his cousins of same age do. He has his own way of playing, talking and reacting with his surroundings. Sometimes he becomes very much edgy, but most of the time he remains alone. Her mother then consulted a psychiatrist and Ontu was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The psychiatrist explained the condition a developmental disorder characterised by impaired development in communication, social interaction, and behaviour that begin in childhood and persist throughout adulthood.
There are thousands of children living with the condition who need proper counselling that are overlooked many times. Just making a confirm diagnoses does not really help in case of autism. To deal with the condition the family concerned needs to know the whole situation and a psychiatrist should disclose the truth and assure at the same time that this is not the end, there are many ways to mange the situation.
If a specialist performs this task in an empathic way, the patient and the family will never forget. Giving support both to the parents and the child with complete compassion should be the main concern initially. Because autism is new for the parents and the life is different to the child with autism, each discovering an unfamiliar world for themselves.
Some parents have the feelings within themselves that they are solely responsible for this happening. Some parents have the idea that autistic children are gifted. None of this information is correct.
Only in a variety of ASD, intellect level is maintained but eighty percent autistic children have mental retardation. Behavioural and special educational interventions are the most effective treatment.
Medications have an important further role particularly for symptoms that interfere with behavioural treatments. It may make the child more receptive to other educational or general management approaches but it does not replace them.
If you are such parents, you are not alone. There are many like you having the same pain and agony. Find some other parents of autistic children, by exchanging experiences you can reduce your pain. Sometimes by sharing you can deal with the situation you have already given up. Autism is a family thing: it affects the whole family; not just the child. A family counselling is a must.
Autistic children have lack of communication and social interaction skills. They have greater risk of feeling loneliness but it is sad that these children do not know why they are feeling so.
Let’s help these children to understand their world. If we see our distant relative, neighbours are struggling with their autistic children, we should extend our hands towards them to share their feelings.
Dr Nafia Farzana Chowdhury
The writer is a Medical Officer, Department of Psychiatry, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University
Source: The Daily Star, March 27, 2010