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April 5, 2018

Seminar on World Autism Awareness Day: Mothers, teachers’ roles stressed in managing autism in children

National

April 5, 2018

PESHAWAR: Speakers at a seminar stressed awareness for parents, especially mothers and teachers, to play own roles in managing autism - a developmental disorder in children.

The seminar had been arranged at the Ibadat Hospital in connection with the World Autism Awareness Day. The participants included psychologists, psychiatrists, teachers from various schools and some parents whose children were suffering from autism.

A young psychiatrist, Dr Ali Ahsan Mufti, was the keynote speaker. Masooma Khan was the other resource person. A noted psychiatrist, Professor Dr Khalid Mufti, moderated the seminar proceedings.

Introducing the topic and resource persons to the audience, Dr Khalid Mufti said the World Autism Day was one of only four official health-specific UN Days.

“The day brings individual autism organisations together all around the world to help in research, diagnoses, treatment, and acceptance for those affected by this development disorder,” said the senior psychiatrist who is also chairman of Horizon, a welfare-based non-governmental organisation, which has been working in the mental health sector since its launch in 1987.

He said this year the UN was observing the 11th World Autism Awareness Day, focusing on women and girls with autism to ensure that women and girls with disabilities were able to exercise their rights as per the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, particularly in matters relating to marriage, family and parenthood as per Article 23 of the CRPD.

Dr Khalid Mufti said autism was a neurological disability that affected information processing, social interaction and communication skills. He said autistic children lacked understanding of the outside world and were unable to cope. However, he said, they could be educated and trained to cope with the situation independently.

The expert said no data was available on the exact number of the autistic children in Pakistan. Citing the figures of the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, he said one out of 68 American children suffered from autism in 2013. He said this was the figure in a developed state and the situation might be different in our country.

Dr Khalid Mufti lamented that there was no proper facility in Peshawar to cater to the needs of the autistic children.

“This necessitates the need for forming a group of dedicated mental health workers who come forward and take the initiative. It is not the job of psychiatrists and psychologists alone. Other sections of the society, parents, teachers and dedicated social workers, will have to come forward to manage the autism challenges,” he said, as he expressed his desire to set up a cell at the Ibadat Hospital for the autistic children.

The senior psychiatrist said this seminar was meant for raising awareness about autism and conveying the message to relevant people - parents and teachers — in simple language as not all the affected population had access to trained professionals for various reasons.

The main speaker Dr Ali Ahsan Mufti dwelt at length on various aspects of autism. He gave a detailed presentation on the subject. He said autism was a developmental disorder that appeared in the first three years of life, affected the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.

He explained in details autism types — mild, moderate, severe and partial -Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Retts Syndrome, Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Development Disorder.

Dr Ali Ahsan Mufti said autism could be recognised if a child had impaired communication with family and teachers, reduced social and emotional interaction, irritability and disruptive behaviour in unfamiliar surroundings.

He enlisted the clinical features of autism which included social interaction, impairment in communication, behavioural abnormalities and cognitive abnormalities. He elaborated on screening tools, behavioural therapies, Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) and recommended activities.

Masooma Khan in her session focused on learning intervention, educational module, therapies and community involvement. She stressed a basic educational module for autistic children that covered writing, reading and speaking.

The next part of her presentation was autism and technology. She talked about apps for learning, anxiety monitoring bracelet, tracing watches for community interaction, multimedia, tablets, computer, TV and radio. She named 11 strategies which should be adopted by an instructor or a teacher.

A question-answer session followed the presentations where the schoolteachers shared their experiences of dealing with the students faced with learning disabilities. Certificates and shields were distributed at the end.

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