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Ques: Why is Autism so often confused with learning disability only? Are there any key differences between the two? And also talk about Asperger's syndrome in the same background.

Ans: Movies like “Tare Zameen Pe” and “Burfi” have displayed learning disability and that is where public perception stem from. Autism is a disease of social integration and how the mind interacts with social environment. It impacts a child’s speech, intelligence and other faculties. There are both high functioning and low functioning autism based on people’s background and intelligence. Asperger's syndrome is also a form of autism that affects the child’s behaviour, reactions, and concentration levels.

Ques: Is there a rise or drop in autism cases in India? Also, are you of the opinion that it has been stagnant, but thanks to awareness more cases are coming to the surface?

Ans: Autism awareness is on the rise so a usual estimate cannot be made on the numbers. However, due to availability of correct diagnosis and increased investigations more and more people, early and more frequent diagnosis is being made.

Ques: Is diagnosing autism still a serious challenge? Do you believe that crucial time is lost in bringing the family and doctors on the same page about conformity of the disease?

Ans: Lay people do not recognize signs so clearly. Also, for sometime, they are in denial and believe that the problem with their child will improve with growing age. So lot of time is lost in seeking appropriate attention. Also professionals duly qualified in Autism are smaller in numbers causing a delay in diagnosis.

Ques: Throw some light on its treatment. Is it curable, or the treatment available is only to see that the condition is not worsened anymore?

Ans: Autism can be treated with Cognitive Behavior Therapy, along with some support from medication is said to have benefits. In most cases, such therapies have the ability to significantly improve, if not completely reverse or cure, the signs of Autism making the child ready to cope with his/her day-to- day challenges. The condition improves as the child grows older with timely intervention in childhood.

Ques: What you have to say about this disease being considered as a taboo in our society, and many calling the person suffering from it 'mentally retarded'? what should be done to make Indians more sensitise about this disease?

Ans: Disseminating correct information to early diagnosis and more robust therapeutic interventions will actually help to remove the taboo associated with individuals suffering from this disorder. Public awareness through newspapers, talk shows should help spread awareness about the symptoms and signs of the disease and will help to clear the misinterpretations surrounding the condition.

Ques: Is enough work being done on ground to spread awareness about this disease. Do you think government can do much more than what it is doing now on this regard, and if yes, How?

Ans: Government can do much more at the basic level by screening tools available for early screening of possible cases at healthcare facilities. It can consider setting up special centers for treatment for autism related disorders to make it possible for larger number of people to access treatment. It can also make it mandatory for schools to have screening programs so that necessary support under specially designed programs can be provided to such children.

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