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For the first time we have a yardstick for autism disability

It’s for the first time that the Centre has issued standardized guidelines to grade the disability of autistic persons. Moreover, certificates would also be issued which would widen their employment avenues and help them access benefits.

Few facts

  • Autism is a lifelong neurological condition, typically appearing in the first three years of life and characterized by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges and repetitive behaviors.
  • It was earlier clubbed with mental retardation. As a result, autistic persons needed to obtain medical certificates that classified them as mentally retarded.
  • Under the new guidelines, the evaluation will be carried out solely on autism-related parameters.
  • While autism has been treated as a disability under the National Trust Act, 1999, it is yet to be recognized by the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995.
  • As a result, the evaluation of disabilities and the procedure for certification, notified by the government in 2001, did not include autism.
  • The absence of a standardized scale to measure the level of impairment had limited the scope of employment for those who had lower levels of autism. This stopped autistic persons from applying for disability certificates.
  • However, the latest version of the disability act, which is expected to be passed in the monsoon session of Parliament, seeks to include autism spectrum disorder as one of 19 recognized disabilities.

So what is the new standard?

Recently, the Ministry Of Disability Affairs, in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, notified the guidelines to assess the scale of autism.

“The Indian scale of assessment of autism has been developed, which provides the detailed assessment procedure and tools for assessing the extent of disability for persons with autism beyond six years of age. Certification of disability for persons with autism may be carried out by an autism certification medical board, duly constituted by the central government or the state government comprising of a clinical psychologist, a psychiatrist and a paediatrician or a general physician as the case may be,” says the notification issued by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

The notification asks state governments to constitute the boards immediately.

What these standards mean is that children with autism will now be graded based on their condition — the parameters for which have now been decided on the specific nature of the disorder and not on general terms.

Those with more than 40 per cent disability will be eligible for disability certificates, which will be valid for five years if the disability is classified as temporary (sometimes behavioral patterns change and the condition may be established as non-autistic) and the person’s age is below 18.

For those with permanent disability, the validity can be shown as permanent in the certificate.

Source: The Telegraph

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