A new research program focusing on the early signs of autism is helping bring early detection and intervention to the city of Tianjin,China.
Dr. Josephine Barbaro, of the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, is spearheading this research. According to Dr. Barbaro, experts from the Asia Pacific region generally know the early markers of autism, but they lack screening tools to properly diagnose the disorder.
We designed a program called the social attention and communication surveillance study,” Dr. Barbaro says. “We’ve trained maternal and child health nurses to monitor these very early markers in very young children, from one to two years of age.”
She also says that so far the Tianjin has been very receptive. For the next seven years, every child born in the city will use this screening process; there are over 100,000 babies born in the city every year according to Dr. Barbaro.
“These sample sizes that we can have for research are huge, so it’s fantastic for research,” she says. “It’s also fantastic so that we can actually work together with families and try and identify children early, so we can begin early intervention.”
According to the doctor, there is still somewhat of a social stigma surrounding autism in China.
“Autism was not recognized as an official diagnosis until 2006 and there has been a history, and obviously still continues to be a history, of there being this stigma surrounding autism or just disability in general,” she said. “If we can try and work together to decrease the stigma and show that children with autism can lead quite fulfilling lives, many of them lead very independent lives.”
ICare4Autism is currently developing initiatives that also bring early intervention and detection to parts of the world where autism is often stigmatized, namely Pakistan and regions in Africa. The key behind these initiatives is informing the locals, allowing for proper diagnosis and treatment, and then making the appropriate resources available afterwards.
For more information on ICare4Autism’s international initiatives, please follow the links here: http://www.icare4autism.org/global-autism-center/icare4autism-pakistan/