Families with autism isolated in South Asia

Image taken from Facebook

Image taken from Facebook

South Asia – families with autism face isolation after diagnosis. The reason for isolation generally comes from the overall misunderstanding and fear of the learning difference and what it could mean for a family’s academic success.

CBC News interviewed a family with autism along with board member of the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre (SAAAC),Jonathan Bertram, who shared incite into the situation.

“So much of South Asian culture revolves around education and the child moving up and the child doing well, and when it doesn’t fit that picture or that paradigm, even for people for whom the child isn’t in their family, I think it challenges their ideas of what’s normal or what’s possible, and that’s probably what we were seeing,”

Gowri Kobikrishna, who has a 17-year-old son with autism, told CBC News that this stigma and the overwhelming fear of being socially shut out from her community forced her into denial.

“We didn’t want to accept that he has autism … because it is going to be a big burden for us, for one thing … and they said that that is a life-long disorder, you cannot be cured with medicine, so all these things went into our mind and we didn’t want to accept that he has autism.”

What’s worse is that the community believes autism is caused by the mother and her past life wrongdoings-thus making the learning difference a punishment she must endure alone.

This forced cut off from society also means being cut off from the services that could help families on the spectrum, something Bertram and the SAAAC realized about five years ago at one of their fundraisers. Since then they have made it their mission to reach out to affected families.

Now, instead of hiding away, Kobikrishna and her son socialize with like minded families over coffee and food, finally getting the chance to relax, and even laugh a little.

SAAAC is happy that they’ve become the social spot for parents and children with autism, but Bertram notes that they have a long way to go.

More information about SAAAC and the services that they provide can be found on their website here

The original article on the CBC News Toronto website can be read here

Contributed by Audrey L. Hollingshead