By Sagarika Mitra:
Almost thirty-two years ago, when Leena Kinger’s parents found out that their first born does not respond nor react to anything that they put across to him, they consciously presumed that he was deaf and dumb and a personal struggle with him had then begun. He was enrolled in a school for the deaf and dumb and in spite of that no improvement was witnessed. He did not pick up anything from the sign language that was taught there. It was only much later that they realized that their notion about their son was absolutely wrong; at least all the medical reports, sessions with doctors and therapists said so. The family had come across the term ‘autistic’ for the first time when he was ten years of age and it took them a lot of time to fully accept this state of his.
“Today he is thirty-four and our journey with him has not been easy. Every phase of his life has been a ‘guess what’ session for us and now that we have come to unconditionally accept him for what he is and love him for the same, nothing seems difficult anymore”, said Leena. She had accompanied her older brother for his yoga session at the Swabhimaan Trust. This is a one of its kind organization in India, located in Chennai, where treating people with autism is largely done by using the therapeutic qualities of yoga, Ayurveda and siddha. “He is a forceps child and wasn’t born autistic, just has autistic tendencies. He doesn’t talk but we have come to know his silent gestures better than anything else today. There are good days and bad and that makes my life with him more challenging”, she said.
Even today the awareness level about this genetic disorder is minimal. Not many people understand the state and that drives them to brand autistic people as mentally retarded or mentally ill. To break through this notion, Dr. Partheeban and his team of young doctors and therapists founded the Swabhiman trust, holistic centre for autism.
“Since autistic children cannot express themselves and have problems with communication most of them are naturally aggressive, stressed and violent. At Swabhiman we take to yoga and ayurveda as our research and experience shows that it helps them tremendously. Their anxiety levels are reduced and aggression to a large extent comes under control”, said Dr.Partheeban. This mode of treatment is unique in its own way because not only does it prove effective in molding the behavioral pattern but also helps channelizing the extra energy in the right direction. It is comparatively a new mode of healing as it totally springs out of Indian medicine. The entire process takes time but is also known to show effective results.
Autism is a state of complete self-indulgence where the notion ‘I am in myself’ dominates the persons entity. It is a developmental disability that interferes with the normal growth and functioning of the brain. Impaired social interaction, problems with communication and repeated behavior are the characteristics most commonly found in people affected.
It is a spectrum disorder and no two autistic children have the same problems. They have biological and neurological problems as well. Their digestion is weak and they can’t consume all kinds of food and nutrients. It is a commonplace observation that most of them are allergic to milk and wheat, which form a major part of nutrition. They have sleep disorders too; their normal sleep hours vary from a maximum of four to five hours a day and this is another major reason for their high stress and anxiety levels.
Other than yoga, siddha and ayurveda; the other activities that can be incorporated while treating people can be occupational therapy, sports therapy and auditory integration training. All these help in bringing the child out of his world into the normal world so as to help him become a part of society. Their main aim should aim at helping them understand the power of communication. The first step can be started with sign language and slowly words should be injected into their system. Over a period of time, after they get familiar with the usage of those words, the notion ‘only when you ask for something, you shall get it’ will help them communicate better. The initiation will require lots of patience but that is how one should deal with those having this complex genetic disorder.
It is a commonplace observation that autistic children are known to be extremely good at art and drawing and a few of them are brilliant in solving puzzles. Maybe this helps them vent all that is within them.
A lot of people are heard saying that people affected with autism are emotionless. They do not feel anything, no pain, no joy, no sorry. This perception is entirely wrong. They feel, understand and go through the same emotions that most of us go through every day. The only thing that sets them apart from us is that they cannot emote; not express all those feelings that they go through. You would find them smiling at familiar faces, making all kinds of gestures as a mark of their affection towards their loved ones. Their strange fixation towards particular objects or the impulse that makes them repeat the same thing again and again is because of the impaired social interaction that they are challenged with.
“I personally believe in medicine and have already started work in the field of research as I want to see an age where there shall be a place for autistics in the real world”, said Dr. Partheeban. Yes, all us would like to see a place for them in the real world, not because we pity them but because they or for that matter any person who is challenged with any kind of disorder or disability, physical or mental, deserves the right to live with dignity.