Awareness on Autism dismally low in Nepal

"My child could not speak even though he seemed to have no other problem. I took him to a hospital for diagnosis, but the doctor could not establish the reason for my child's silence," said Rachana Ghimire, a nurse and mother of autistic child.

"We found out five years later that our child was suffering from autism." "All that I knew about autism came from reading its definitions. But now I am well aware about the problem as I have been taking care of my own son who suffers from autism," she added.

Most people are completely ignorant about autism, doctors say. Autism is not a disease but a mental condition which gets in the way of a child's ability to communicate, form relationships, build language skills, and use tools, according to them. "Children with autism need more care and support for their mental and physical development than their peers who are born normal," said Dr Merina Shrestha, a pediatric consultant to Autism Care Nepal Society (ACNS) at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital. "Many parents have scant knowledge about autism and they simply lock their children up or put them chained as they cannot devote adequate time for the proper care of their autistic child."

According to a report of the Autism Care Nepal Society (ACNS), about 300,000 children suffer from autism in Nepal. One in 68 children is born with autism in the world.

According to Dr Shrestha, there is no specific treatment and medicine to cure autism. "The best treatment is proper care and therapy for their mental development," she added.A child with autism is treated with different kinds of therapies, including behavioral therapy, social skill therapy, art and music therapy, among others.

"Parents have a major role to play in healing autistic children," she said. "The cause of the medical condition is yet to be found out." If a first child was born with autism, there is a 35% chance that the second child would have the same condition. "All parents of autism-affected children should be trained to provide proper care to them," doctors say. The number of children with autism has been increasing every year in the world as well as in Nepal, according to the ACNS.

The ACNS, which is the only organization in Nepal that works for autistic children, is run by parents of children with autism. World Health Organization (WHO) has declared April 2 as the World Autism Awareness Day.

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