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Help for autistic children, parents

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 27: Autistic children need just reinforcement of their skills and not punishment or excess love, said acclaimed behaviour analyst Smita Awasthi.

Smita was in the city for a workshop where she trained parents and psychologists and interacted with autistic children using the applied behaviour analysis technique, better known as ABA.

ABA is yet to be followed in India despite being widely recognised worldwide in developing behavioural skills of autistic children, said Smita.

“There are only around 10 of us who are well-trained in applied behaviour analysis techniques and are certified behaviour analysts. Though ABA is a proven way of teaching autistic children since it is the outcome of meticulous scientific research, it is yet to be accepted in Indian courses. People here are not even aware that such a beneficial method exists,” she said.

Under ABA, development or learning skills is broken down into very small steps and then the process is reinforced for the child. When working with around 30 kids in the city during her workshop that started on Saturday, parents too found visible improvements.

“My eight-year-old son had a typical behavioural disorder. Whenever we went out, he would find the washroom and then play with the flush. The problem persisted for two years. He would not listen to us and hence we tried speech and occupational therapy but without much improvements,” said Karan, a parent.

“After researching for the best behaviour analysts, I met Smita in Bangalore and after a 15-day course, my son showed a lot of improvement. Hence, we invited her here so that parents could themselves be trained or they could keep in touch with her to develop the behaviour of their kids,” he said.

The facilitator of the workshop, Alok Kundu, himself a behaviour analyst and an expert in sensory integration, said that parents in the city often felt helpless if their children were autistic or have behavioural problems since there was little or no expertise available when it came to such therapies.