Now, a Wiki page on autism

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Bngalore: Even as activists are lobbying to get autism recognised as a disability in the new Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, a few companies in Bangalore are trying to do their bit by making it part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

While SAP Labs in Bangalore employs five people with autism, Microsoft Research on Wednesday announced the launch of a campaign that aims at creating awareness about the spectrum disorder. At the launch, experts in the field from different organisations came together to speak about their experiences and the need to create awareness on this disorder.

What Microsoft Research team has been working on is a simple wiki page, which is an attempt to crowd source all the knowledge that exists on autism in India, says Rosa Arriaga, a researcher with Microsoft Research India.

The biggest problem in addressing autism in India is the lack of awareness, resulting in parents missing tell-tale signs of the disorder.

Given how crucial early intervention is, Dr. Arriaga says that the first step would be to address the lack of awareness.

The website (www.tellmeaboutautism.org) currently hosts a public service announcement video in 11 languages that informs and educates people on the many signs of autisms. The editable wiki gives people the opportunity to update resources. For the non-internet savvy, there is also a phone line that people can call in to where they will hear an audio version of the same public service message.

Speaking on the need for creating awareness on this disorder, Dr. Nalini Menon of the Spastics Society of Karnataka pointed to heart-rending messages written by children and adults living with autism. While one message pointed out that the only thing distinguishing them from other children was their mode of expression, another message implored people to understand, accept and include them. Sarita Alexander of Spastic Society of Karnataka said that our schooling system is not equipped to deal with children with autism, resulting in further alienation. “Things are different abroad, where it is mandatory for every child with autism to receive state support and services, while here we are still trying to get the government to include autism in the new legislation for people with disabilities.”

Nandini Munkur from the Centre for Child Development and Disabilities said that low awareness levels was not only delaying intervention, but also resulting in tough situations for children growing up with the disorder.

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