07 December, 2012

Autism Lacks Awareness and is Hidden in Hadhramaut

Autism Awareness Hadhramout
After writing the post about how camels are used in Germany in treating Autism, I decided to find out how the condition is managed in Hadhramout. I was shocked by what I found out. People are simply not aware of Autism in Hadhramawt. Even the educated, including many, if not most doctors, are not aware of it or do not know how to recognize the condition. I also realized that most people simply have no idea what the disorder (which affects mainly boys) is, and almost all those who are autistic live without proper care or are untreated or are wrongly diagnosed as having some kind of mental disorder or are under-diagnosed; and are prescribed the wrong treatment. Or, worst, autism, along with other psychiatric conditions, are some times thought to be the work of black magic or the "evil eye" and then some kind of a 'sheikh' or a traditional medicine-man is consulted on how to manage it. Autism has an enormous amount of coverage in developed countries, in the US in particular. The Arab world has just started waking up to the condition, recognizing it and building awareness. In most Arab countries, autism is now being well catered for and managed; autistic children are now receiving education and treatment methods developed in the West. But not in Yemen, least of all in Hadhramaut. What is autism?
Autism is a development disorder characterized by a pattern of impaired social interactions and restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviour. It is a complex, lifelong disability that typically becomes apparent during the first three years of life. However, the condition is often missed and not diagnosed until later in a child's life, especially when the condition is mild or even moderate in severity.
Recent reports suggest that the prevalence of autism in the Arab world ranges from 1.4 cases per 10,000 children in Oman to 29 per 10,000 children in the United Arab Emirates2 3. While these rates are lower than those of the developed world, which are 39 per 10,000 for autism and 77 per 10,000 for all forms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), it does not necessarily mean the condition is less prevalent in the Arab world. Read on.....
Yemen has only one, poorly funded organization that provides some kind of care for autistic children: the Yemen Autism Organization. The organization can only care for very few children and can not extend its services to the tens of thousands of autistic children around the country. In Hadhramaut, the main problem is that - not only are there no proper personnel and facilities in managing autism, many, if not most families simply do not want to accept having an autistic child. Children suffering from autism are kept out of mainstream society, with little or no access at all to education. They are also discriminated upon, some times - very sadly - even by their own relatives.

Hadhramaut needs trained and properly equipped personnel to handle and manage autism; above all, it needs to build awareness and campaigns on the disorder. Most autistic children are the result of consanguineous marriages, which is very common and prevalent in the Province; people have to be advised not to marry close relatives. Part of this autism awareness building, should include a more nuanced discussion of what autism looks like so that parents and clinicians can recognize early signs instead of looking only for the manifestations of a monster. This recognition of early signs is important to effective therapy. Hadhramout lacks specialists who know how to implement the latest in autism interventions. For the sake of the thousands of children suffering from the disorder, leaders (medical, political, religious and community elders) should all,urgently, wake up and do all they can to help the thousands of autistic children. With awareness information and campaigns, all need to be woken up to help those with autism. Help them to lead and have as a normal a life as possible.

+ What is autism?
+ Autism Treatment and management: here, here, here, here and here
+ Turning tides of autism