South east Asian nations to discuss autism

New Delhi, Feb 8: With cases of autism showing a significant increase, experts from India, Bangladesh, Thailand and eight other southeast Asian countries will deliberate to identify common challenges.

The deliberations will be held at a day-long conference of South Asian Autism Network (SAAN) here Feb 11. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi will inaugurate the event.

Autism is a developmental disorder characterised by communication difficulties, social and behavioural challenges and repetitive behaviours. Diagnosis is difficult due to use of different criteria.

World Health Organisation data shows an escalation in autism cases from 10 percent to 14 percent between 1990 and 2011. It is expected to rise to 15 percent by 2020.

The aim of the meeting is to identify common challenges each country is facing and form a partnership to develop solutions in a collaborating and coordinated fashion, a health ministry official said.

The conference will also explore establishing a regional autism awareness campaign, creating joint programmes for information-sharing and professional training, and defining national and regional strategies to advance autism public health research and policy development.

During the conference, representatives from India and Bangladesh will present the official SAAN Charter for adoption by all network member states.

Bhutan, Democratic Republic of Korea, Indonesia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Timor-Leste will also take part in the event.

IANS