Avi Nayar loves to skate, swim and cycle, but he always plays alone. The eight-year-old student at Vasant Valley has autism, a disorder that hampers social interaction.
Awareness is the key
Avoids eye contact
Is prone to repetitive behaviour
Registers delay in acquiring speech
Shows no response to facial expressions
Schools for autistic children:
Tamana, Vasant Vihar.
Contact: 011 2614353/ 26148269
The Shri Ram School, Vasant Vihar & Gurgaon: 26140884, 26149572
Action for Ability Development and Inclusion, Hauz Khas.
Contact: 011 26966331/ 26864714
Vasant Valley School, Vasant Kunj.
Contact: 011 26892787/ 26896547
Action for Autism, Jasola Vihar.
Contact: 011 65347422/ 40540991
Pallavanjali School, Gurgaon.
Archana and Sameer Nayar, Avi’s parents, realised he was different from other kids when he was a year old.
“I felt something was wrong but couldn’t put my finger on it. He wouldn’t make eye contact with us, wouldn’t reach out to us,” says Archana, a general physician who now works from home.
An article on autism made her realise that the symptoms matched her son’s behaviour.
“I literally ran to the doctor,” she says.
Now, Shah Rukh Khan’s portrayal of a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome — a form of autism — in My Name Is Khan has once again brought the disorder into the spotlight.
A development disorder, autism affects language and communication and socialisation, with symptoms such as lack of eye contact and communicative babbling first appearing after the age of six months. The disorder is more common in boys.
“Some people also suffer from ritualistic behaviour such as hand flapping and repetitive stacking of objects and are not adept at social interaction. Autistic people seem unaware of their surroundings and are, at times, seen as aloof,” says Dr Amit Sen, a child psychiatrist at Children First, a centre for special children.
“Despite living in New York, we had never heard about autism. We were in denial for six months. Getting our son treated was a nightmare,” says Sameer, who works for a real estate finance firm.
“The notion that autistic children are not sensitive and emotional is not correct. Avi is extremely loving and caring but it’s not easy for him to show it,” says Archana.
While there is no cure, therapy improves speech, language and communication and helps an autistic individual adjust to his/her surroundings. The earlier the treatment starts, the higher its chances of success.
“There are times when you think ‘why me?’ But I think you can either dwell on that or find ways to do the best for your child,” says Sameer.