ARJUN ROY XII-G
World Autism Awareness Day is celebrated every year on 2nd April, when various organisations come together to spread awareness about ‘Autism’, a condition that has left millions of individuals around the globe cut off from society’s embrace.
“Autism – a condition in which the person is LOCKED in his / her own private world.”
These words brilliantly summarise the condition’s symptoms & its effects. A person who suffers from Autism does not live in the same plane of existence as those of others & perceives their surroundings differently. Since what we perceive is what makes our world, autistic people live in a world that is entirely their own. Even though we cannot comprehend or visualise the world they live in, it is a magnificent world, full of mystery wonder & brilliant accidents that light up their lives.
Autistic children mostly have extremely delayed speech, or in some cases, no speech at all. The symptoms can be behavioural, developmental, muscular, & cognitive & speech related. Apart from delayed speech autistic children interact & behave differently. They DO NOT make eye contact, nor do they play with other children. There are delays in the development of cognitive abilities & their motor skills. They also face a lot of trouble communicating with others. As a result, these children often find it extremely difficult to adjust themselves to society & find themselves at a loss when facing a new environment. Due to these factors, they face bullying at school, are made fun of by their peers & are shunned by their extended family. Even their parent have to cope with a lot stress while dealing with the problems of raising an autistic child, struggling with both criticisms from the less enlightened members of society, as well as with financial shortcomings, as treatment for Autism are not cheap & does not come easy as it can only be treated by specialized therapies.
However there is a silver lining. Such individuals are often blessed with sheer brilliance. They are extremely intelligent & have a phenomenal memory. They may not be able to put two sentences together, but they’ll juggle complex mathematical problems with ease & be able to commit to memory an entire telephone directory.
Till late very little was known about Autism, but today it is known to the general population. Autism’s rise to fame started with the movie ‘RAINMAN; starring Dustin Hoffman as Raymond, an Autistic individual & Tom Cruise as his brother.
Doctor: Ray, can we try something?
Doctor: Do you know how much 312 x 123 is?
Raymond: [saying digit after digit] 3-8-3-7-6.
Doctor: [amazed] He’s right.
Doctor: He’s right!
Charlie: He’s right?
[The calculator shows 38376]
Doctor: Ray… How much is 4343 x 1234?
Raymond: [saying digit after digit] 5-3-5-9-2-6-2
Charlie: He’s a genius…
Charlie: He’s a genius!
Doctor: Ray! Do you know how much a square root of 2130 is?
Raymond: 4-6 point 1-5-1-9-2-3-0-4.
[The calculator shows 46.15192304]
Charlie: That’s amazing! He is amazing! He should work for NASA or something like that.
Doctor: [walking to Raymond] If you had a dollar… and you spent 50 cents, how much money would you have left?
Raymond: About 70…
Doctor: 70 cents?
Raymond: 70 cents.
To bring ‘World Autism Awareness Day’ into effect, a resolution was passed by the United Nations General Assembly on November 1st, 2007. It was proposed by the United Nations representative from Qatar, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, Consort of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, & supported by all member states. Since then, every year 2nd April is observed as World Autism Awareness Day. On this day various NGOs all around the globe come together to spread awareness about Autism & to raise money for research & support activities. Various conferences are held where the leading experts discuss & build upon their knowledge on the various facets of Autism. Walks are also organised in cities around the globe.
Of many such NGOs, ‘Autism Speaks’ happens to be the largest of all, spearheading research & development of support circles for the families of Autistic individuals. Autism Speaks has also undertaken various initiatives. Light It Up Blue is one of the largest initiatives posed by Autism Speaks. Also, The Power of One March is The National Autism Awareness March, & is a unique night-time march in Washington, D.C.
When it comes to India, there are millions of Autistic children in the country. Sadly though, most states are ill-equipped to deal with them. There are no specialized centres for education nor are there any therapists to help them adjust themselves into society. However, certain cities such as Bhubaneswar, Delhi, Mumbai & other metropolitan cities have such centres. Still, it is quite obvious that it will not be enough for the millions of others who still languish in the darkness, unloved & alone. Keeping this mind, India needs to work towards developing more of such centres & sensitize people to the situation of autistic individuals.
The society as a whole can benefit a lot from the phenomenal abilities of such kids. We’ll be surprised to know, that some of the most brilliant experts in the field of information technology are autistic. Just imagine to what heights the combined brilliance of millions of such individuals could take us to. And now, let us comeback to where it all began. It all began, with the Rain Man.
Charlie: Who took this picture?
Charlie: And you lived with us?
Raymond: Yeah, 10962 Beach crest Street, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Charlie: When did you leave?
Raymond: January 12, 1965. Very snowy that day. 7.2 inches of snow that day.
Charlie: Just after Mom died.
Raymond: Yeah Mom died January 5, 1965.
Charlie: You remember that day. Was I there? Where was I?
Raymond: You were in the window. You waved to me, “Bye bye Rain Man”, “Bye bye.”
Hats off to Rainmen all around the world.