Currently in India, approximately 1 in 500 or more than 2,160,000 people, are diagnosed with autism, according to the Rehabilitation Council of India.
‘Currently, autism is found in 1 out of 500 persons in India. Medindia interviewed two leading experts in the field of autism to get a perspective into the Indian situation.’
Medindia spoke to the President of
the Centre for Child and Adolescent Wellbeing, Dr. Deepak Gupta & Dr.
Abhishek Srivastava, the WHO resource person for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to
get an Indian perspective about this development disorder.
are approx. 10 million children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in
India but there are very few centres or resource people to help these children.
There is lack of awareness about the condition among parents, teachers and even
among the medical professionals. Help is often sought late and late corrective
measures do not yield the same results as early interventions.
from lower classes with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) fare even worse and are
often abused as they never get to see a therapist even after they attain
adulthood. The government at present does not allocate enough resources to help
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a group of neurological developmental disorders that affects social interaction, communication, interests and
Generally the symptoms appear before three years of age but the
diagnosis is often delayed.
Children and adults with ASD often
have the following common characteristics:
- Behaviour – Repetitive behaviors
- Communications – difficulty
communicating and interacting with others
- They may exhibit very focused
These symptoms results in difficulty to
function socially, at school or work, or other areas of life.
The symptoms may be mild when it is
not so noticeable or severe. When severe it leads to disability. Early
intervention and treatment improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function.
There’s no ” known cure” for ASD,
however interventions such as speech and language therapy, occupational therapy
and educational support can help the children.
President of the Centre for Child and Adolescent Wellbeing, Dr. Deepak Gupta
who holds a carnival every year to raise awareness about the condition in Delhi
for Autistic children answered the following question about the condition
and the carnival – for Medindia
are the challenges faced by autistic children in India?
Ans. The main challenge is lack of awareness, people
don’t know where to go, who to speak to and how to go about obtaining
treatment. The knowledge available with pediatricians and family members should
next challenge is there are not enough places for international strategies to
be implemented with a lack of the right resource people to implement them.
There are very few centres which are dedicated to helping children with autism.
There are 10 million children with autism in India and the available resource
people cannot cater to the needs of all of them.
motivated you to start this carnival?
Ans. This carnival is a great place for families to
unwind,most parents claim that their child is very difficult to manage
in the house, but the carnival show them in a truly different light. It is held
in a farmhouse where the children get to play outside with no restrictions.
provides them the support to showcase their talent, we have already obtained 40
entries and had to close registrations as it would then become difficult to
manage. There has been growing popularity since 2013, when the idea was
Have people with autism been able to
secure jobs through this carnival? Do you invite prospective employers?
Ans. Their talent lies mainly in the arts and music
arena, so last year we invited people from multimedia.
year too we have invited people from the hospitality industry. ‘Spectrum Stars’
is a unique program, where 5 talents will be projected. One is that of a girl
in her mid-twenties who is good at canvassing for products or services. Another
is a young man who is a good content writer while another 19 year old boy
sketches well and has even drawn a sketch of my face recently.
you receive any Government funds for this?
Currently we are funded by private agencies but
we are confident that we will receive Government funding soon. Our Chief Guest
is Mr. Mukesh Jain, Joint Secretary & Chief Executive Officer, National
Trust of India, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of
also spoke to Dr. Abhishek Srivastava, Director of The Center for
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Kokilabhai Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital. Dr.
Srivastava has a triple PhD and won the “Young Physician’s
Scholarship” from World Stroke Organization, IAPMR Gold Medal, Best
Research Paper form Neurological Society of India, IAPMR Dadhichi Award and Dr
Anisya Vasanth Award for his exemplary research studies. He is a
- Resource Person for World Health Organization Projects
- Expert for Indian Council of Medical Research Geriatrics
Research Committee & Disability Research Group
- National Board of Examinations Curriculum Review Committee
- Founder Director of Indian Federation of Neurorehabilitation
- Editor of Newsletter of Indian Stroke Society and Peer Reviewer
for various International Journals
He has received fellowships from
- Stanford Veterans Affairs Hospital, Palo Alto Health Care
System, Stanford University, California, USA
- Singapore General Hospital, Singapore
- Case Western Reserve University Hospital, Cleveland, USA
Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland
What led you to take up work on autism?
Ans. I work with stroke and brain injury which lead
me to autism. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in this area,
increase awareness and sufficiently support people with autism.
is the prevalence of Autism in India?
Ans. In India, 1 or 2 per 1000 have autism.
does one recognize the symptoms of autism?
Ans. The main method of identification is through
lack of social communication expressed by people with autism. They will draw
back into a shell and will be unable to deal with their peers.
with autism also have repetitive behavior. They keep doing the same things
again and again, which could be either motor behavior or an activity that the
child repeats multiple times.
is the downside of diagnosing the condition late?
Ans. Diagnosing the condition too late will lead to
child not being self- sufficient as the right guidance for integration into the
society would not have been provided. Such children will begin to face the ire
of social stigma and which will keep them further away from society. As a
result, the individual may not be able to gain employment.
with very serious case of autism will fell drained and will not be trainable if
they are diagnosed too late.
such children be able to grow up and live independently?
Ans. It depends upon the type of autism that the
child has.There are three types of autism that is present, mild,
moderate and severe. A person with mild autism will be able to lead an
independent life with adequate training, however, an individual with severe
autism will require lifelong full time care.
it true that Albert Einstein and Newton had autism?
Ans. Yes they say that Einstein and Newton had
certain autistic features.
What are the challenges faced by parents with
autistic children and how can they cope?
Ans. Parents need to make their autistic children
independent and they require plenty of help and resources for that. If their
child has a severe form of autism, then they need to find life long care for
should ensure that their autistic child is taught self care, undergoes speech
therapy and is provided with vocational training which will help secure jobs.
‘Kasper’ a child sized humanoid at the
University of Hertfordshire interacts with children to improve their social
skills, your comments on that?
Ans. Robots and humanoids are a requirement for the
Western communities where most families are nuclear families. In India, where
the joint family system is still very popular, there will be no need for such
What has been your most elevating
experience while working with children who have autism?
Ans. My most uplifting moment is when I see an
autistic patient of mine secure a job or get into mainstream schooling.
We in India require many medical professionals
to champion the cause of Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Our two doctors are
doing the best to create awareness and form support groups for this disorder in