Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) Dr. Fazıl Küçük Medicine Faculty academic staff member Dr. Gülcem Altınoğlu has written an article on the occasion of 2 April, World Autism Awareness Day. Dr. Altınoğlu’s article titled "World Autism Awareness Day" reads as follows:
“2 April was declared as the World Autism Awareness Day by the United Nations General Assembly in order to raise awareness about autism spectrum disorder, also known as autism, to support people with autism to achieve their full potential and to emphasize the importance of supporting them in maintaining a healthy social life.
The prevalence of autism has been increasing since the 1960s. According to the data of the Centers for Disease Control Prevention, it is estimated that one out of every 150 children was diagnosed with autism in 2006. According to the latest information, it is estimated that this diagnosis is one in every 54 children at present.
The word 'spectrum' used in autism spectrum disorder refers to a wide range of different symptoms and the degree of these symptoms. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that occurs in the first years of life, affects how a person perceives others in her/his brain development and thus causes difficulties in communication and social interaction. It also incorporates repetitive and obsessive behavior patterns that cannot go beyond the boundaries. Autistic people are also known for non-standard learning paths and interests in specific topics. Although the cause of autism is still unknown, studies have suggested that both genetic and environmental factors have an effect. Among the first symptoms of autism are avoidance of eye contact, non-responsiveness or indifference to their names, which can occur from early infancy. Over time, language and social development may be accompanied by delay. At this point, some false beliefs such as s/he is introverted, silent, will talk somehow or stigmatization by the society and anxiety of exclusion can lead to delays in the diagnosis and treatment of children with autism. However, it should not be forgotten that the sooner autism is diagnosed and properly dealt with, the more positive results are obtained in its treatment.
Another point that should not be forgotten in autism is that it can manifest itself with different symptoms in every child and therefore, its progress with treatment may not be the same in every child. When suspected, specialist doctors should be consulted. It has been observed that early and intensive treatment (infancy and early childhood - first 3 years) has made a big and important difference in many cases. The reason for this is that the brain and nervous system development and learning ability are at the fastest point during these periods. Early diagnosis and, therefore, early intervention with the right stimuli is the most effective method for autism, like all other developmental disorders. Autism requires a multidisciplinary teamwork and continuity. Autism symptoms can be controlled in approximately 50 percent of children with autism who are intervened in this way, great progress is made in their development, and even some of them may not be different from peers when they reach puberty.
People with autism need the support of their families and the sensitivity of the society in order to develop their full potential in their future lives and to live a self-sufficient life. Changing the discriminatory perspective that most autistic individuals are exposed to and understanding what autism is and approaching it consciously are the best gifts to be given to these individuals. Let's not forget that autism is not a deficiency but a difference. Let's accept these differences and feel their loving energies. "