Autism is a brain development disorder that is marked with difficulties in patients to interact socially, verbal and non-verbal limitations, behavioural disorders, limited and repeated activities. The number of people with autism is increasing globally. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention the prevalence increased from 1 per 150 population in 2000 to 1 per 59 in 2014. In Indonesia, around 4 million people have autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Child health expert from UGM, dr. Mei Neni Sitaresmi PhD., Sp.A(K)., said the cause of autism was multifactors, a combination between genetic and environmental factors. “Genetic factors contribute to the cause of autism, for example, pregnancy at a later age, rubella infection while pregnant, young pregnancy, toxin, etc,” said Mei to reporters during the Autism Spectrum Disorder seminar on Thursday (8/8) at UGM Graduate School.
In Indonesia, according to Mei, it was usually late for parents to treat their children who have autism. They should be treated before two years old. Symptoms can actually be recognised. Generally, patients have intellectual limited ability disorder, convulsion, digestive problems, sleep disorders, sensory disorders, and attention and behavioural disorders. “Early symptoms show that children are quiet and like to play alone,” she said.
When detected early, health treatment procedures can be done by doctors, psychologists, educators, and family.
Expert in autism from Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM), Mercyhurst University, USA, Prof. Brad McGarry, said autism could not be cured. What needs to be done is changing people’s views of autism. “The principle is not to be cured, because they have special abilities that need therapies and special treatment,” he said.
The limited abilities of children with autism, in his opinion, would not disrupt them to gain education until a higher stage. He said the campus ought to provide special facilities and treatment for them. “They need support to gain access to university like any other people, so that they can finish the studies well,” he said.
Dion, alumnus of History Department UGM in 2013, said while studying at UGM he only had problems with concentration. He said he had experienced not many barriers in the study.
“While doing my study, I still joined many activities and had interaction with my fellow students, even many of them did not know I had it,” he said. He is a volunteer by giving mentoring and guidance to autism patients; currently he continues his study at Mercyhurst University.
Vice-Rector of Cooperation and Alumni of UGM, Dr. Paripurna Sugarda, appreciated the seminar to mark the UGM’s 14th Lustrum. In his views, UGM had the commitment in giving opportunities to everyone who wants to study at UGM. According to Paripurna, people with special abilities would have the same right with other students. “The university will always try to give the people with special abilities the same rights and facilities that are already available,” he said.