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11 April, 2016 00:00 00 AM

Autism awareness in Bangladesh and its challenges

Autism awareness in Bangladesh and its challenges

Autism is a life-long brain disorder that is normally diagnosed in early childhood. People with autism have difficulties communicating, forming relationships with others and find it hard to make sense of the world around them. Autism is a spectrum disorder varying in severity and impact from individual to individual, ranging from those with no speech and severe learning disabilities to people with IQs in the average range who are able to hold down a job or start a family. People with autism may also have unusual patterns of language development, narrow interests and engage in repetitive and sometimes challenging behaviours. Autism spectrum disorder includes Autism, Aspergers syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder. However Asperger's Syndrome is a form of autism in which speech development and IQ are normal, but in which social disability can be compounded by depression and mental health problems. Some people with autism demonstrate significantly challenging behaviour; most need specialist support and care. Autism affects people of all racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.
The identification and treatment of children with Autism in Bangladesh was confined to a few Medical College Hospitals and Post Graduate Institutes. Even doctors were not aware of the clinical features of Autism and its management and sometimes cannot understand the disorder. The services for children with Autism was visually reflected from 1990 in Dhaka Shishu Hospital and other hospitals and subsequently many other organizations like the Society for the Welfare of Autistic Children (SWAC), Autistic Welfare Foundation (AWF), PROYASH and others came forward with their activities for autistic children from the year  2000 and onward .With the establishment of the Centre for Neurodevelopment & Autism in children in the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University awareness for Autism was boosted in Bangladesh. Recent International Conference in Bangladesh on Autism Spectrum Disorders and developmental Disabilities in Bangladesh and South Asia held in Dhaka on 25-29july gave a new direction to the awareness, research and services for autistic children. Now the National Advisory Committee on Autism has been formed with  Saima Hossain Putul  as chairperson, and four Task Forces are working under her leadership, and activities on Autism has gained momentum in Bangladesh. Bangladesh can make a big impact on Autism over the globe.
Challenges
Due to lack of trained professionals we are unable to reach autistic children. They don't have easy access to a tertiary level hospital .Not all doctors at Upazila and district level are educated on autism. So misdiagnosis and mistreatment still occurs.
Another challenge that has to be overcome is in education. Autistic children have difficulties entering normal schools, even if they are capable intellectually and have relatively "good" behavior. Most schools are reluctant to have autistic students, they foresee many difficulties in handling and teaching autistic children.
There are no curriculums for training of teachers of autistic children, by government and private institutions. Even there is no facility for short-term training for teachers of autistic children. Late diagnosis of autism in children occurs due to poor awareness regarding autism among many doctors. And even of those doctors screening children with autism, many do not know to whom to refer their patients. The case is more acute for under-privileged autistic children
We now have many adolescents on the spectrum who are not going to school, there is no occupational training for them, so most of them stay home and live with their parents, which creates a big stress for the family. New babies are still being born who later get a diagnosis of autism. Without knowing the possible causes of autism we cannot stop the autism boom. No research is being done in this field either.
Conclusion
Once a child is diagnosed on the autism spectrum, he has to climb a steep and winding road. They will perish without our help. With our help some will make it to the top, but many more still be left behind. Still we hope best for the Autistic children in Bangladesh.
This article is republished in memory of Prof. Dr. Shahnawaz Bin Tabib who died recently.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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