Autistic Children May Bring New Challenges, but Support Is Key
“Maybe if Swathi Sarkar was trained to handle her autistic child, we would not have lost her,” said Nitya, Head of Apoorva Centre for Autism. On 27 August 2017, Swati threw Shreya down twice from the terrace of their third-floor apartment at JP Nagar in Bengaluru. The seven-year-old died on the spot. Residents of the area who were witness to the incident tied the mother to an electric pole before the police arrived at the scene and took her into custody. Shreya, who was an autistic child, was identified to have speech development issues.
The mother, Swathi, is in judicial custody at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS).
Parents’ Role in Shaping Autistic Children
There is no one type of autism and there is wide variation in symptoms displayed by each of them, from sensory difficulties to social disengagement. Sarbani Mallick is a Bengaluru-based special educator has been working with autistic children and their parents for over two decades. She said that it becomes really hard for parents to deal with fluctuating behaviour every day.
Swati was separated from her husband a couple of years ago. I think she was deprived of emotional, financial as well as moral support. In such a situation, we cannot expect her to take care of her autistic daughter. The lack of aid would have led her to take such an extreme step of killing her own child.Sarbani Mallick, Special Educator
Autism is a complicated spectrum disorder. Parents ought to know the ways in which they can handle the mood, anxiety and attention problems the kids face. “Only a handful of schools and therapy centres offer specific training sessions to parents. The ones that do, charge a lot of money due to which parents back out from taking it up,” said Nitya, Head of Apoorva Centre for Autism.
Nature of Support Available for Autistic Children
A study conducted by the Rehabilitation Council of India has said that the approximate prevalence rate for autism in the country is one in 500. “The number of schools, child psychiatrists, and neurologists who are qualified to attend to autistic kids are few in number. Even if regular schools admit such children, they might not receive the kind of treatment they need,” said Dr Suresh Bada Math.
Venu GVK, Director of Sambhavanam Center for Autism, has an autistic child himself. Handling an autistic child involves putting up with atypical behaviors, including communication and social struggles. Venu believes that the treatment and care offered by the institutional set up is not up to the mark.
Autism is not well-understood in a lot of schools. Till three years, the child requires intensive therapy, after which they have to be moulded and socially conditioned. It is recommended that the special educators who deal with autistic kids hold a certification on Applied Behavioural Analysis, but there are hardly 35 to 40 people in Bengaluru who have done it.Venu GVK, Director of Sambhavanam Center for Autism
High-Priced Therapy Sessions
Autism is a type of disorder which generally lasts for a lifetime. However, early intervention helps in bringing significant improvement in the mental condition. Parents are compelled to burn a deep hole in their pockets to get their children treated. “One single speech therapy session can cost between Rs 650 to 700. Parents from a middle-class background can find it extremely hard to meet these expenses,” said Sarbani.
(Make sure you don't miss fresh news updates from us. Click here to stay updated)