Action for Autism AFA, New Delhi

… (we are) the pioneering, national and non-profit autism society of India. We provide support and services to persons with autism and those who work with them in South Asia. Founded in 1991, we are a parent organisation began with the goal to “put autism on the Indian map.” Awareness of autism in India has grown in the past decade. Our day-to-day activities now focus on a wide range of services and activities to improve the lives of children with autism and their families from an educational, medical, and legal standpoint. We are an Indian organisation, and our efforts are focused on the needs of those in India. At the same time, we enjoy our sharing information and resources with autism organisations and families worldwide. To more effectively orchestrate services for the thousands of people with autism in India, we relocated to the AFA National Centre for Advocacy Research and Training in 2006 … (full text Homepage).

Diagnostic Criteria for Autistic Disorder from DSM-IV;
Possible Specific Symptoms for Newborns to Eighteen Month Olds with Autism;
Helpline: Answers to Questions by Parents; History of Autism (about);
News and Events; Services and Activities; get involved; National Centre; Links in India; Organisations worldwide;
Address: Action for Autism, Pocket 7 & 8, Jasola Vihar, New Delhi 110025, INDIA;

About Autism; What is Autism?   

  • This is by far the most frequently asked question. Briefly, it is a severely incapacitating life long developmental disorder that typically occurs in the first three years of life. It causes impairment or disturbance in three main areas Social skills, communicative (verbal as well as non-verbal) skills and in their repetitive and restricted behaviors. Autistic individuals may show abnormal responses to sensations. Any one or more of the senses may be affected. All these difficulties manifest themselves in behaviours i.e. abnormal ways of relating to people, objects and events in the environment.
  • Autism is known as a ‘spectrum disorder,’ because the severity of symptoms ranges from a mild learning and social disability to a severe impairment, with multiple problems and highly unusual behavior. The disorder may occur alone, or with accompanying problems such as mental retardation or seizures. Autism is not a rare disorder, being the third most common developmental disorder, more common than Down’s Syndrome. Typically, about 20 in a population of 10,000 people will be autistic or have autistic symptoms. 80% of those affected by autism are boys. Autism is found throughout the world, in families of all economic, social, and racial backgrounds. Doctors, politicians, and rickshaw drivers alike all have autistic children.

What is a person with autism like?

  • A child with high functioning autism may have a normal or high I.Q., be able to attend a regular school and hold a job later in life. However, this person may have difficulty expressing himself and may not know how to mix with other people. Moderately and more seriously affected children with autism will vary tremendously. Some autistic children do not ever develop speech, while others may develop speech but still have difficulty using language to communicate. Often, there is an unusual speech pattern, such as echoing whatever is said to them, repeating a word over and over, reversing “you” and “I” when asking for something, and speaking only to express needs, rather than emotions.
  • A child with autism looks just like any other child, but has distinctive behaviour patterns. A child who is autistic may enjoy rocking or spinning either himself or other objects, and may be happy to repeat the same activity for a long period of time. At other times, the child may move very quickly from one activity to another, and may appear to be hyperactive. Many autistic children have sensitivity to certain sounds or touch, and at other times, may appear not to hear anything at all. Autistic children may have very limited pretend play; they may not play appropriately with toys or may prefer to play with objects which are not toys. Autistic children may be able to do some things, like sing songs or recite rhymes very well, but may not be able to do things requiring social skills very well.

How is autism diagnosed?

  • There are no medical or genetic tests that can detect autism. These can only rule out other conditions. A diagnosis of autism requires a sensitive and experienced doctor to observe the child very carefully, ask the parents about the development of the child, and then objectively follow internationally recognized criteria for diagnosis. Onset may occur at birth, or a child may have a period of normal development followed by a deterioration of verbal and social skills around 1 1/2-2 1/2 years. Where onset is at birth, the disorder can be detected as early as a year. Autism may occur alongside conditions such as mental retardation and hyperactivity, but the autistic traits in the person are typically what require attention.

What is the cause of autism?

  • At this point in time we do not know what causes it. However, current research indicates that anything that can produce structural or functional damage to the central nervous system can also produce the condition of Autism. We know that certain viruses and known genetic conditions are associated with Autism. In addition, there are families that have more than one child with autism. At present, it is believed that about 10% of all cases can be accounted for genetically. It is difficult to tell parents why their child has autism since researchers believe the problem to be caused by different factors, and in most cases, the cause is never known. Autism is not caused by an unhappy home environment, both parents working, mental stress during the pregnancy, poor handling by the mother, an emotional trauma, or other psychological factors. You cannot cause a child to become autistic.

Can it be prevented? Can it be cured? What is the treatment? … (full long text).

(Summary: AFA is a national, charitable organisation providing support and services to persons with autism and those who work with them in South Asia. Its activities include providing assessments, counselling, information distribution and referral, home-based management programs, and networking between parents. AFA operates a library, publishes a journal, The Autism Network, conducts workshops and lectures for parents, professionals, and teachers on management techniques, and works to raise awareness of the disorder among these groups as well as the general public. AFA also operates one of the few schools exclusively for autistic children in South Asia, Open Door, in New Delhi and provides one-on-one intervention. To more effectively orchestrate services for the thousands of people with autism in India, it has began plans for a National Centre).

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