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     Volume 7 Issue 3 | January 18, 2008 |

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Having Normal Fun

Hana Shams Ahmed
Photos: Zahedul I Khan

The annual sports day is organised by the Autism Welfare Foundation (AWF) to help children socialise and adjust with the outside world and also to raise awareness about autism through the mass media.
This little girl loves dressing up and AWF has given her the opportunity to do so on this special day.

Every mother's dream is to make her child the best at anything he does - school, sports, culture and even at socialising with friends and family. Nothing makes parents more proud than the ideal, all-rounder, best-behaved child. But what happens when the mother finds out that her child is not quite the ideal child, that he will never come out first in his class and will not quite make the school cricket team? With enormous social stigma surrounding physical and mental disabilities it makes the challenge of raising or even simply accepting a differently-abled child more difficult in our country.

Autism is a developmental disorder affecting a person's ability for social interaction and social communication. In developed countries autism is much easier to deal with because the level of awareness is very high among parents as well as teachers. Even until a few years ago there were no special schools for autistic children and parents ended up sending their children to mainstream schools where the teachers have no clue how to deal with them and the children would end up sitting in one corner of the classroom speaking to no one and making their condition worse.

This member of the 'elite force' could ultimately not handle the pressure of his responsibilities.

When Dr. Rownak Hafiz realised that her second child Miti was different from other children she knew that she would not learn anything from a mainstream school. Being a doctor she already knew much about autism and she went and learned more. She finally formed The Autism Welfare Foundation (AWF) to help guide and educate not only the autistic children but also their parents. Many parents feel helpless simply because they don't know what to do and how to help their children which puts a further barrier to their children's development. Autistic children and their parents have come very far with the help of the trainers.

In a mainstream school, an autistic child can never dream of taking part in extra-curricular activities.

On January 14, 2008 AWF arranged their annual sports day and the developments the children had made in terms of social and behavioural skills was quite evident and the smiles that were brought on the proud parents' faces was inspiring. The children played all kinds of games from musical chair to 100 in sprint and football. There was a synchronised dance routine to the liberation war song 'Purbo Digonte Shurjo Utheche'. And the most colourful arrangement of the day was the 'Dress as you like' segment, where the children transformed themselves to as varying personalities as a Rab agent to a chanachur-seller.

Autism may not be completely curable but if an autistic child is helped properly and treated with patience his/her condition can improve dramatically. It all depends on the combined efforts of the parents, teachers, neighbours and relatives and an awareness from society as a whole.

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