April is Autism awareness month and it is time we as a society wake up to our children with special needs, by first understanding the condition.

What do we mean by children with special needs?

Children who suffer from:

  • Learning disorders – Dyslexia, ADHD etc. 
  • Speech disorders 
  • Autism
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Down's syndrome
  • Those children who need extra attention and care to cope up with routine activities 

Parents' role

As parents, we may notice that our child is slow in reaching his/her milestones like speech, walking, social skills. Someone may even point it out to us.

The initial reaction is denial. No. It can’t be. 

Let us as parents understand something. Children with special needs are seen in all strata of the society and even among parents who are very conscious about their health, have no family history of such disorders and took great care during pregnancy.

We, unfortunately, do not know the cause of most of the above-mentioned disorders. It can happen to anyone. Denial takes us nowhere.

And there certainly is no harm in screening your child for these disorders. If they come out to be negative, Great! 

In case it is positive, you need not lose heart. Today there are special educators, special medical professionals to cater to their needs

If your child has any of the following symptoms, get her/him screened.

  1. Delayed milestones – sitting, eye contact, crawling, walking.
  2. Delayed speech – Your child should be babbling by 12 months and should be able to speak two-word sentences by 24 months. If not, it is delayed
  3. Head circumference – too small or too big
  4. Repetitive actions – like swaying, clapping
  5. Social interactions – if your child has no friends, cries at a gathering, is too introvert
  6. Self-injury - Headbanging, hand poking and others 

Who will do the screening?

  1. Developmental pediatrician – a pediatrician with a super specialization in developmental pediatrics.
  2. Pediatric neurologist
  3. Pediatric psychiatrist
  4. Paediatrician    

Teachers' role

  • You as teachers are better poised to identify learning disabilities or children with special needs. 
  • Mothers have one or two kids to compare with, your experience with many children is hence priceless.
  • Take time to read materials pertaining to children with special needs. Make a bigger difference in this society 

Society's role

It is so easy to blame the parents for this. It never is the parent's fault! Genes yes, but never the parents. 

  • Be a support to such children and their parents. 
  • Do not look down upon them. 
  • Do not resort to superstitious beliefs of evil possession etc. 
  • Do not stop your children from playing with them. They will not be harmed.
  • For the over-enthusiastic ones – please do not overdo it by pampering them. The children and the parents have only one expectation from you – to treat them normally.

They are special children of this world and believe me, they will make you 10 times happier than what you tried to make them.

Role of Ayurveda

  • Ayurveda Therapies like Shirodhara, Shirobasti are found to be very beneficial. 
  • Certain drugs like Brahmi, Shankapushpi, Jatamansi etc are safe and effective herbal options for antidepressants, stimulants, antipsychotics which are commonly used to treat these children.

In all honesty, most of the Ayurveda solutions do not have documented evidence. 

But documented evidence in other systems of medicine are inconclusive – that is, they do not know for sure if it works. And it works differently in different children.

My seniors, colleagues and I have, in our practice seen considerable improvement with Ayurvedic treatment, especially in the areas of – speech, restlessness, aggressive behaviour, attention and concentration. 

Ayurveda can be safely and effectively combined with therapies like – Speech therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and others.  

Allied therapies

Yoga and pranayama work great. It is practically not possible to try yoga and pranayama in the younger ones. Try them for the older ones, those aged above 6 or 7.