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(India) "Autism increasing at alarming rate"; linked to older moms, junk food

April 2, 2024, Pune Times Mirror: Autism increasing at an alarming rate, say experts

On the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day today, Pune Times Mirror spoke to professionals

A study done a few years ago reveals that one in 68 children is being diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) not just in India but across the world. Even though society is yet to accept autism as a disorder that needs immediate and regulation intervention, going by the trend one cannot deny how more and more children are being diagnosed with the disorder. If statistics are to be believed, 10 million or more have autism in India. The numbers just keep growing.

Sonali Ghumare, therapist, Pediacare Child Rehabilitation Centre said, “Ten years back when I started my career, I used to treat 30 to 40 autistic children out of 100. The rest used to have some form of disability. Today, out of 100, I have 80 to 90 autistic children. There is an immense growth in the trend. If you ask around, you will find out that each and every rehabilitation centre is having a tough time managing so many children.”

Sadhana Godbole, Prasanna Autism Centre, added, “When we started the centre 24 years ago, the numbers were very few. Among the children we used to take care of, 50 percent were autistic but it’s much more now.” What is contributing to the growing numbers? Godbole says, “Women are getting married late and in the process are having children at a later age. Our lifestyle is blamed for this. We have junk food, sleep late etc.”

Scientists across the world have conducted analyses of data in many western countries. This has revealed that parents in their mid-40s are 5 to 10 percent more likely to have a child with autism than are 20-year-old parents. Ghumare contributes the growing trend to Covid 19 and the lockdown.

She explained, “Children who were born just before COVID 19 did not get out of their houses or interact with other children for two years. Parents were also working from home so they practically had no one to interact with. Autistic children like to be alone, that’s one of their major traits. All these favouring factors contributed to children being diagnosed with autism.” She added that more than the first lockdown, the second one affected children even more. “For many children with mild autism, the symptoms just grew further.” 


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