“Autism: a Disease or a Way of life?” Author:Dr.Gita Mathai, in the New Indian Express, dated 9 th,October,2007. Abstarct by:Rabasure,(in 600 words) “Autism”is a peculiar state of mind and behavioural pattern of a child, manifested by different behavioural patterns, like avoiding the eye contact, banging his head, refusing to reciprocate affection, keeping aloof and not mingling with others and living in his own world.The child,being abnormal, mother often encounters problems while feeding him,like conflicts, vexation and force-feeding.The‘autistic’child always prefers a strict orderly routine, and for deviation, if any,he gets provoked, leading to ubiquitous movements and violent reactions. At first‘autism’ shows mental retardation,often revealed by the child’s failure in the traditional Indian system of education which is largely based on rote learning, while the child develops normally in other respects, causing discomfort to the parents.When the child is suspected for ‘autism’,Simon Baron-Cohen’s Test is applied to measure the Autism-Spectrum Quotient or Autism Quotient or AQ,as administered by a psychiatrist.’Autism’ is a new disease of the modern age, but its history can be traced from 1798 in the medical literature. At the world level,’autism’ prevails among 1 to 2 per 1000 people, whereas in India the incidence of ‘autism’is estimated to be around 1.7 million people.Though ‘autism’develops in a child even before the age of three, there is no any degenerative disease of the brain to reveal the onset of ‘autism’Some of the ‘autistic’ children are great learners,called as ‘Savants’ (scholars) in French but they have severe mental handicaps with extrodinary narrow intelligence, displaying striking features of memory,mathematical ability or unusual abilities in art. The cause of ‘autism’ is not known, but inheritance and genes cause 90 % cases of ‘autism’.Inheritance causes ‘autism’ characterized by involvement with social impairment, communication difficulties,repetitive behaviour, showing that the inheritance involves mutations in more than one gene.The genetic cause may be modified by environment with subtle and mild symptoms.These children are labeled as ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’ or ASD. Intake of medicines like, Thalidomide, Valproic Acid, Misoprostal etc, by the pregnant mothers,some infections like Rubella (German measles), suffered by her are said to cause ‘autism’ to her child.
The exposure has to occur, before the foetus is 8 weeks old.Vaccines with extended schedule of immunization with additional vaccines are said to cause ‘autism’.In Japan such vaccines were withdrawn to prevent the onset of ‘autism’, but to no effect, in the incidence of ‘autism’.Hence there is no conclusive evidence or proof to show the link between vaccines and ‘autism’ ‘Autism’ is treated with medicines like antidepresents, stimulants and antipsychotic, given as brain tonics for autistic children. But the response is not typical as there is side effects.There is very little research about the use or safety of these medicines.Nonconventional medication and treatment are ineffective.Some invasive treatments like branding and electrolyte alterations are dangerous, useless and ineffective. The ‘autistic’children need individual care and attention to develop their skills and special talents. Since they may not cope up with the formal traditional school system, they should be tutored in person individually. Many of them can be good at computers. Water sports are recommended to them, since they are therapeutic, but expensive and out of reach of an average Indian.Parents cannot tackle ‘autism’,since knowledge of ‘autism’ is very limited.Special education teachers with particular reference to‘autism’are few,very limited and far between. Since‘autism’is not curable, ‘autistic’children can improve with treatment and may become independent and self-reliant in future.With support, ‘autism’ becomes lesser among the children as they grow.However, only some 20 % autistic people become independent and manage to get enmployment, but they need our emotional support and they need to live at home.