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Reflections-By Dr Rajan Philips

( This motivational article was published in Oman Observer , one of the leading Newspapers in Oman.  )


Dr Rajan Philips -In this highly competitive world, parents are anxiously eager that their children come up with brilliant or extraordinary academic performance. Only when someone faces the challenge of bringing up a child with a disability does he realise what a blessing it is that the other children are ‘normal’ or ‘average’. This was the thought that passed through my mind while reading a few reports about the observance of World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) in Oman. In this context, let me share a few relevant thoughts and information.

A general awareness of what autism is would go a long way in making things easier for those affected. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that manifests itself during the early years of children. It affects the way they communicate with and relates to others and the world around them. They may tend to be hypersensitive or hypo-sensitive (under-sensitive) to different sensory stimuli. Their three main areas of difficulty are social communication, social interaction and social imagination. This in turn may impel them to stick to a set routine and shy away from creative interactions.

But they generally do not look ‘disabled’ unlike those who have physical disabilities and hence when they behave in an unusual way they are often misunderstood. They find it difficult to recognise other people's emotions and feelings, and hence appear to behave 'strangely' or inappropriately. They may have trouble in grasping the concept of danger. For example, we may see one of them darting across a busy road little realising the inherent risk involved.

Autism affects different people to different degrees. Some manage to live relatively independent lives while others require lifelong specialist support.

Though they may be weak on social interactions they could be quite creative and emerge as accomplished artists, musicians or writers. There have been strong speculations that Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, is affected by a form of autism. But look at his incredible accomplishments.

Autism is not a rare phenomenon. Figures for Oman are not available. In the UK, it is estimated that one in 100 people are autistic. Furthermore, this disability is predominant in males and could be as high as four to five times the incidence in females.

What is distressing is that there is no cure for autism as of now. However, an early and correct diagnosis can help the victims and their families to deal with the situation in a more efficient manner and mitigate the ill effects.

The paramount importance of creating general awareness motivated the United Nations to declare in December 2007, April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day. This day has been observed annually with unique fundraising and awareness-creating events ever since 2008. In the USA it’s a month long campaign spearheaded by the Autism Society.

Oman has not lagged behind. The lead has been taken by the Association of Early Intervention for Children with Disability. Charity walk, concerts, exhibitions and charity sale have been organised this year too.

It is laudable that volunteers who helped out in these humanitarian activities were mostly students from schools and colleges. An eye screening camp for children was also organised recently at Qurum Natural Park.

In conclusion let us reflect on the thoughtful message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the occasion of this year’s WAAD: "Together, let us travel this road towards a more caring and inclusive world."

Yes, let us do all we can to show we care.

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. — Helen Keller
The only disability in life is a bad attitude.
— Scott Hamilton



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