Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who inaugurated the second edition of the South Asian Autism Network (SAAN) conference here on Monday, called for mutual cooperation to deal with autism.
Addressing the conference, Gandhi noted that India as a nation has still to do a lot in forming favourable policies for the differently abled.
"In India, we probably have over eight million individuals with autism spectrum conditions. Our ministers have just spoken to us about many initiatives and programmes, which have been started here in India, including some changes in some policies," said Gandhi.
"However, I feel that the formulation of public policies in our country have not kept pace, and not enough attention have been given to disability sector. In the absence of adequate institutional support mechanisms, the differently abled remain deprived of their rights," she added.
Autism is a developmental disorder, which is characterized by communication difficulties, social, behavioural challenges as well as repetitive behaviours. The diagnosis of autism is difficult due to the use of different diagnostic criteria.
Gandhi, who is the chairperson of the National Advisory Council, expressed hope that the SAAN countries would succeed in dealing with autism through mutual cooperation.
"This life long affliction needs life long support and care. I'm hopeful that this conference will be a productive platform bringing together parents, doctors, researchers and civil society to deliberate on different aspects of autism," said Gandhi.
"Let us collectively insure that the South Asian Autism Network makes it possible for our countries, even with our limited resources, to develop adequate support services for all families irrespective of their financial needs," she added.
Representatives from India, Bangladesh, Thailand and World Health Organisation (WHO), SEARO (WHO South East Asian Region Office) are participating in the daylong conference.
During the conference, representatives from India and Bangladesh presented the official SAAN charter for adoption by all network member countries.
After the adoption of Dhaka Declaration on 25 July 2011, the South Asian Autism Network (SAAN) was born to combat the devastating autism public health crises. The intention is to identify common challenges each country is facing and form a partnership to develop solutions in a collaborating and coordinated fashion. (ANI)