Early intervention therapy only option for autistic children: Samina

Published April 2, 2023
First Lady Samina Alvi speaks at the autism awareness seminar in Islamabad on Saturday. — APP
First Lady Samina Alvi speaks at the autism awareness seminar in Islamabad on Saturday. — APP

ISLAMABAD: First lady Begum Samina Alvi stressed the need for greater awareness of ASD to create greater understanding, encourage parents to seek early intervention therapies and ensure greater integration of persons with autism in society.

Addressing a seminar on World Autism Day at Shifa International Hospital, she said: “Despite the prevalence of disabilities in our society, individuals with disabilities face many barriers to inclusion and participation.”

They may face discrimination, stigma, and lack of access to essential services, such as education, healthcare, and employment, the first lady said.

She said that it was their collective responsibility to work towards breaking down societal barriers for the individuals with disabilities by promoting their greater inclusion in all sectors of society.

Majority of estimated 350,000 children with autism remain undiagnosed in Pakistan

“This means creating accessible environments, promoting universal design, and ensuring that individuals with disabilities have access to the resources and support they need to participate fully in their communities,”

She said that the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was a complex neuro developmental disorder that affected communication, social interaction, and behaviour, and diagnosed in people of all genders, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Chief Executive Officer of Shifa international hospital Dr Zeeshan Bin Ishtiaque also spoke on the occasion.

According to estimates, in Pakistan 350,000 children are suffering from the disease with majority of them being undiagnosed.

The autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in brain. ASD begins at the age of three and lasts throughout a person’s life, although symptoms may improve over time.

Studies have shown that one third parents of children with ASD noticed a problem before their child’s first birthday, and others saw problems by 24 months of age. Some children with ASD seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had.

ASD is a complex developmental condition involving persistent challenges with social communication, restricted interests and repetitive behaviour.

According to estimates about one in 100 children has autism, worldwide.

Ms Tehreem Bangash, Head of the Early Intervention Therapy Unit at Maroof Int’l Hospital, while speaking to participants of an event, said current years’ theme was “Toward a Neuro-inclusive world for all”.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2023 report stated that around 1 in 36 children is diagnosed with an ASD, with boys being four times more likely to receive a diagnosis than girls. However, in Pakistan, many children remain undiagnosed or receive a late diagnosis, missing out on critical early development years,” she said.

On this occasion, the CEO of Hospital Haroon Naseer announced to give 50pc subsidies on all the consultations in early intervention therapy unit for the month of April.

According to the Autism Society of Pakistan, there is no reliable data to estimate the occurrence of autism in Pakistan, but some estimates put them at 350,000 children with autism in Pakistan. They are not easily identifiable as it is not a physical disease that can be diagnosed by tests easily.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2023

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