Only when parenting an autistic child can the actually real-life experience be felt.
Asperger’s Syndrome was less-explored a territory till Shyamaprasad narrated the story of Jude in Hey Jude. The protagonist, played by Nivin Pauly, was in for loads of affection and empathy. Okay, here it’s a man, who unknowingly lived with the condition till his adulthood, until one day somebody helped him identify what he is. Asperger’s Syndrome is one among the many divisions in the autism spectrum. If you noticed it or not, each time autism is being discussed, or a campaign conducted, or an inspiring story is shared, its characters are mostly male. Yes, we forget to speak about girls and women who bear this. But something big is happening. United Nations has set this year’s World Autism Awareness Day theme as ‘Empowering Women and Girls with Autism’.
It is the right time for introspection on how far we have reached in bringing our women under this umbrella term. One major reason, experts admit in unison, is security and safety issues.
Deepthi Mathews is the advisory board member of Autism Club in Ernakulam, who says girls/women comprise one fourth of the entire population of autistic people.
“Their presence is too less and it is difficult to judge them from appearance, whether they are autistic or not. Usually, their upbringing is taken care of by mothers, who prefer homeschooling, instead of sending them to common schools or taking them out for travel. There is little awareness on their health and sexual problems. Discussion on these matters is the need of the hour. Also, we should help them understand how to express their problems,” Deepthi points out.
Only when parenting an autistic child can the actually real-life experience be felt. Shereen Shaheed knows how mothering a girl child with the condition is like. While she admits there is still lot of confusion regarding the needs and talents of her child, she has come a long way in encouraging her daughter.
“In fact, we don’t actually know any autistic female adult. They are not seen anywhere. There are number of models to follow therefore. I feel we should get an option to identify the strengths of the child in that case. My child is sent to school. She has a good memory but I am confused about how to tap that potential. She loves music and sings whenever she is in an atmosphere comfortable to her. I am slowly making her do physical exercises and develop her interest in music. Finding her comfort zone, we are gradually learning methods to calm her down,” says Shereen, also the programme coordinator of Autism Club, Thiruvananthapuram. The club in Kochi has plans to increase awareness on autism among females. They will observe the day with a programme at Lulu Mall on Tuesday and are planning a set of programmes on April 5, including autism acceptance walk, autism talent show orchestra and an event called Light-It-Up-Blue.