The eighth World Autism Day is being observed today, but the awareness about this disease in Pakistan and many other parts of the world is still virtually nil, unfortunately even among the doctors, while treatment and other facilities about the persons suffering from it are also rare. The day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly through a resolution passed on November 1, 2007.
It is a spectrum disorder and has many variations. However, for general understanding it is a condition among children characterised by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. According to estimation, one in every 50 children in Pakistan can be autistic which is much higher than other parts of the world.
Mrs. Rukhsana Shah, who has recently established the Autism Spectrum Disorders Resource Centre (ASDRC) Lahore said that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) were more misdiagnosed, misunderstood and abused than any other group in Pakistan.
Unfortunately autism is not recognised either as a specific disorder or an atypical neurological trajectory in Pakistan, and autistic individuals are categorised as mentally retarded as per the last census of 1998. She said that developmental disorders are neither mentioned in Mental Health Ordinance 2001, nor in National Trust for the disabled.
On the other hand, Indian National Trust Act 1999 specifically mentions the welfare of persons with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities. India is further increasing the number of recognised disabilities from seven to nineteen, while in Pakistan, there are only four categories in the Disability Acts of 1981, 2012 (Punjab) and 2014 (Sindh).