The Institute of Paediatric Neurodisorder And Autism (IPNA) had organised a training on NDDs (Neuro-Developmental Disability) for media personnel on 29 February, 2020 at the IPNA seminar room at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University at Shahbagh.
The training was attended by media personnel, journalists, and the sessions were conducted by experts in the field, currently at IPNA.
The seminar began with Dr Shaheen Akhter, Professor of Child Neurology and Director of IPNA, who discussed about IPNA and its activities, saying, "We must remember that Autism is not a disease. It's a disorder, and therefore, can be managed and IPNA has activities that promote this awareness." She also emphasised on M chat (Modified Checklist) as an important tool for identifying Autism in early years.
Dr Kanij Fatema, Associate Professor of Child Neurology and Deputy Director (Academy) of IPNA, on the other hand, focused on a basic introduction to the NDDs and why it's imperative that we possess a basic knowledge about them.
"There are many NDDs, but in Bangladesh, we find mainly four of them. Autism, Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy. But most people only know about autism, but it's different from the other NDDs and that needs to be understood," she affirmed.
Most people in Bangladesh have heard of autism, and yet, there is a tendency of confusing it with Down Syndrome, which can often be identified with physical traits. Autism on the other hand, gives out hints that parents or guardians can pick up. If treated early, it can be managed and the child has a good chance of functioning normally in society.
"The early years are important. The brain develops the most just before the age of five, and this is when the child learns. If autism is detected early, there is still time that we might be able to help the child so he gets the benefit of the early brain development because that is crucial," said Dr Gopen Kumar Kundu, Associate Professor of Neurology and Deputy Director (Admin) of IPNA.
About one percent of children in Bangladesh suffer from autism. Inability to pretend play, repetitive actions and non-responsiveness are just some of the signs that parents should look out for in the first three years.
It's not just the children who are affected by autism. The parents and the family are equally affected. Such parents often worry about their proper treatment and arrangements of their care in their absence. This is when care homes should come into play. But the sad truth is that there are no such care facilities in Bangladesh at the moment.
"It's sad, but that is the reality. Still, we have plans for such facilities, and we are working our best to ensure that there are treatments for NDDs even at the District Health Complex. The challenge is, in this case, is we lack trained manpower. A doctor alone cannot handle such cases. They need a team and that is difficult to provide," said Dr Muzharul Mannan, who is hopeful that there will be more development in this field.
By Ashif Ahmed Rudro