Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 19th 2015 Contents 6 | WOW MAGAZINE
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt April 19, 2015
| HEALTH |
"How many of us know
about the puzzle ribbon?
How many of us have ever
seen one, or, better yet,
By Makini McGuire
PINK RIBBON for Breast Cancer Awareness, red rib-
bon for HIV/AIDS awareness and puzzle ribbon for...?
The puzzle ribbon became the official ribbon of Autism
Awareness in 1999; sixteen years later if I put the
question to you as to what autism is, can you answer?
How many of us know about the puzzle ribbon? How
many of us have ever seen one, or, better yet, worn
one? Finally, how many of us know that the month of
April in 2015 is dedicated to Autism Awareness? Don't
feel ashamed, if you didn't know you are probably in
The puzzle ribbon symbolises the diversity of autistic
behaviours and the bright colours represent hope.
Today we will attempt to build this thousand-piece
puzzle by combining the pieces into three large ones.
For any parent who has ever complained about their
child running a toy car over their foot, tugging them to
"come see" "come see", or felt that understandable
twinge of annoyance at the constant chatter, prepare
yourself for the pangs of guilt to come!
The first amalgamated puzzle piece we will label as
The Child. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), colloquially
known to most doctors as the 'Psychiatry Bible', de-
fines Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as being char-
acterised by two main entities. Firstly, deficits in social
communication and social interaction and, secondly, re-
stricted repetitive behaviours, interests, and activities
(RRBs). Let's understand The Child using this informa-
tion. Often what parents notice first is their toddler
who was thriving and saying, "ball", "want juice" and
"want tea" has lost their words. Their toddler no longer
smiles or giggles; in fact, the sight of him/her running
into their arms when they arrive at home is likely gone
forever. The Child may stare for hours at the fan or
flush the toilet continuously unless stopped. The Child
may have self-harming behaviours like banging their
heads against the wall; they may have sustained an in-
jury but you would never know unless you inspect for
it yourself. What we understand as normal human so-
cial interaction is lacking.
Conglomerate puzzle piece number two is The Parent.
In no way can someone who has not parented a child
with ASD ever fully understand the experience, but we
can at least try. This portrayal is in no way meant to
evoke pity, because parents of children with ASD are
to be admired and supported. The Parent is all-know-
ing and well educated about their child's diagnosis,
they alone can give a true representation of all the as-
pects of the autistic child because they know the child
not as a patient but truly as their beloved son or
daughter. That knowledge did not come easy, however;
the road was long and hard.
The cause of ASD is still unknown, despite the con-
stant ongoing research. The Parent first has to believe
and accept that their parenting skills did not cause it.
Not even a solid genetic cause has been agreed upon.
The Parent then has to pass through the adjustment
phase. Accidentally triggering off car alarms or turning
on a blender in the kitchen can lead to incessant
screaming from The Child for hours. Touching or hug-
ging may elicit an inappropriate or exaggerated re-
sponse. Learning how to decipher what The Child
wants or needs without verbal or even non-verbal
communication is frustrating and despairing.
The third and final integrated puzzle piece of our jour-
ney is The Help. ASD needs to be diagnosed and man-
agement instituted as early as is possible. ASD should
be managed by a specialised combined team of Pae-
diatrician, Parent, Psychologist and Support Groups.
They need special education in special schools by a
trained educator and countless hours of dedicated pro-
fessional behavioural therapy, speech therapy, occupa-
tional therapy and even physical therapy. The aim of
management is to create a functional human being.
Needless to say the demand far outweighs the supply
in our country.
The Autistic Society of Trinidad and Tobago is a non-
governmental organisation that tries to supply the
needs of as many of these children and their families
through donations received. Our national approach to
ASD and other special needs children is mediocre at
best. There is ample room for special needs schools
and educators that can only be achieved through a
dedicated national effort to fund relevant educational
initiatives. Special needs children can become produc-
tive members of the society.
Until then, citizen support is all we can. Support the
Autistic Society by attending their events, giving do-
nations and educating yourself and others about ASD.
Check out their calendar of events on their website at
www.autismtt.org and come out for the Autism
Awareness Walk on Saturday April 25, 2015 at the
Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain. Join The Help
today! #Puzzle Ribbon!
Makini McGuire is a Medical Doctor and Event Manager. Contact
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Request a topic at
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