What is Autism?
Autism refers to a range of conditions identified by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences. In simpler words, it’s a mental illness that makes it difficult for a person to live life. Autism also has a strong genetic basis, although the genetics of autism is complex and it is unclear whether autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is explained more by multi-gene interactions or by rare mutations with major effects.
The symptoms of the disease include:
- difficulty in mixing with other children
- insistence on sameness
- resists changes in routine
- inappropriate laughing and giggling
- no fear of dangers
- little or no eye contact
- sustained odd play
- apparent insensitivity to pain
- echolalia (repeating words or phrases in place of normal language)
- prefers to be alone
- may not want cuddling or act cuddly (avoid human contact you can say)
- spins objects
- not responsive to verbal cues
- acts as deaf
- inappropriate attachment to object
- difficulty in expressing needs
Autism’s obvious signs tend to appear between 2 to 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Some developmental delays associated with autism can be identified and addressed even earlier. Autism Speaks urges parents with concerns to seek evaluation without delay, as early intervention can improve outcomes.
Why you should care?
Although we don’t focus on this due to mental illness itself being a major taboo topic, many people continue
to suffer with this issue with no one to offer help to them. It is estimated that 350,000 children in Pakistan suffer from autism and this number is increasing day-by-day. Teaching and training these children requires thorough professionals and specialized equipment. A child with autism needs special care, and assistance to even get through the simplest of tasks that we deem unimportant. They need special care and guidance with a trained professional who knows what they’re doing with care and consideration.
What can you do to help?
Unfortunately there is very little awareness about autism in Pakistan and that needs to be changed. There are very few places that focus on this issue. One of the foundation is the Rising Sun Institute, and you can check out their Facebook page here. You could volunteer or if you can’t, you could share this page so that others can volunteer or just be more about it.
Our society treats mental illness as a stigma and something that’s made up. We need to change that attitude as mental illness means that our brains need help, that’s just as important as our bodies. More often that not, our mental health directly affects our physical health. We need to spread that ideology by talking to our family and friends. It’ll be difficult to change minds that fast, but if each of us tries we could create a proper change in the world around us.
Autism is a real-life matter to be treated like a serious thing and cared for. All someone with trouble needs is a little support, don’t pull your hand away from someone in need.