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Autistic & perfect! SAN-KER raises awareness on autism

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SHILLONG, April 2: The lack of special education and the rising cases of neurodevelopment disorders in the state are causes for concern, as the care of specially-abled children largely remains limited to urban areas. The public discussion on World Autism Day delved deeply into these issues at Mission Compound, Shillong, organised by SAN-KER with the theme, “Colours.”
The day began with a walk from Khyndai Lad, with nursing students, teachers from various colleges, teachers from schools catering to specially-abled children, caregivers, and doctors from SAN-KER participating in the walk, carrying placards to raise awareness.
Following the walk, participants gathered at Mission Compound for a public discussion on autism. Dr Eddie Mukhim, a Consultant Psychiatrist at SAN-KER, revealed that in Meghalaya,  the percentage of autistic children is approximately 0.3 per cent per hundred of the population, compared to 0.8 to 1 per cent nationally.
He suggested that this lower percentage in Meghalaya could be due to limited assessments in the state.
On similar lines, Dr Dida Khonglah from SAN-KER stated, “As per the Global Burden of Disease Study, data collected from 1990 to 2017 shows that there are about 354 cases per 1 lakh population so far. In India, as per the 2021 study by the Indian Journal of Pediatrics, it is shown that 1 in 68 children are affected, with a higher prevalence in boys.”
Khonglah further emphasised her concern for the rural population, stating, “Where do they go? And they cannot send the child here to Shillong because it’s an everyday class. And then they have to think about the logistics and where to put up their child.” She added that these are the setbacks faced by the state and advocated for the government to prioritise setting up special schools and providing special educators to address these challenges.
Several autistic children were also part of the public discourse with one Banjop War reciting poetry with the help of his caregiver. The nursing students of Woodland Institute performed a dance number for the audience, and the kids present could not help but tap their feet to it.
Psychiatrist at MIMHANS, Dr Hamar Dakhar, also gave a presentation explaining the legal rights of people with autism.
The discussion ended with two caregivers (Mrs. Kharlyngdoh and Mrs. Syiem), sharing their experiences and the challenges they faced while caring for autistic individuals, including a child and an adult, respectively. Additionally, several children on the autism spectrum were seen sporting t-shirts with the empowering quote, “I am autistic and I am perfect.”

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