Autism: A Different Ability

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition where the diagnosed children have unique skills, strengths and abilities. They demonstrate repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have estimated that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The increased prevalence and undiagnosed cases in the population makes it an epidemic condition.

The team of Behavioral Scientists at NUMS held a talk on “Autism Spectrum Disorder” at Professional Development Centre (PDC), NUMS. The guest speaker for the session, Ms Haleema Sadia is currently the Director of Autism Resource Centre, Islamabad and an Autism Specialist at Shifa International Hospital, Islamabad. The session sensitized the diverse audience, which included researchers, educationists, psychologists, speech therapists and participants from Armed Forces Institute of Mental Health (AFIMH) and Armed Forces Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine (AFIRM).

Ms Haleema Sadia, the guest speaker shared the current statistics on Autism and explained how the disorder is a spectrum and life-long condition, and affects the quality of life of those suffering with the condition, along with their families and caregivers. The diverse etiology, screening tools and treatment options available in Pakistan and worldwide were discussed. The ideas for the research required in the field of etiology of the disorder (genetic structure of ASDs, app development for screening and management), and the indigenous cost effective interventions required were also presented. The audience was introduced to another side of the spectrum i.e. Autism Savants who have exceptional abilities like long term memory and strong visual, mathematical and technological skills.

The audience was interested in upcoming trainings in Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and they were provided further information on the trainings. The session ended with a dedicated parent of an autistic child, sharing her experience of dealing with the challenges related to the scarcity of screening and treatment options available in Pakistan.