saata VOL: 2, ISSUE: 2 - APRIL 2018 facebook

SAATA ITAA Conference-2016 team
Autism - Sapna Sajan home
Kousalya-Karthikeyan I am an entrepreneur and a psychotherapist practicing Transactional Analysis. I largely work with parents of children with special needs and special educators in private practice and groups. My realisation that parents need help to be able to help their children got me on this path. I love to travel, watch movies and sunsets.

April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day and hence I thought of writing this for us to understand Autism better.

First of all, none of us in our wildest dreams would think that their child, this little human being that they have nurtured like the most delicate thing in this world could have any challenges. And what makes it worse for a parent who is just discovering that their child has some challenges are names like Autism, ADHD, ADD and even special child (doesn't feel special at all).

I am writing this because I see way too many parents checking with other "experienced" parents when they see some of the symptoms, and mostly the others ask them not to worry because the child will grow up and everything will be ok. Every time I hear something like this I think the family lost an opportunity to address the child's challenges. Hence, I am writing this with the intent of helping us differentiate symptoms of autism from symptoms of just being children.

Below are the signs one should look for. Meeting many children on the autism spectrum has helped me put this together. This list will help us understand when it is time to take the child for an assessment.

The child finds it difficult to sit in one place for more than a couple of minutes and is constantly on the move. It is different from just being an active child. Also, what could mislead is the fact that the child can sit for several minutes in front of a screen (TV, phone, ipad) or for that matter music. Screens are visually very appealing and they might sit, but when you look at the child's response to other activities which needs the child to pay attention like listening to stories, colouring etc, you will have a better idea.

2) Lack of response
The child does not consistently respond to his name being called and follow instructions. Observe the child's responses across people, the child's response will be the best with primary caretaker. Yet, it might not be consistent even with the primary caretaker. Responses need not be verbal, but even turning around and looking at the face, gesturing and smiling is good enough to be considered as a response.

3) Difficulty in making eye contact
You observe that the child is not able to make and sustain eye contact. Again, the child need not be verbal, especially if the child is under 3 years of age. The child may be responding better to parents, and that can be sometimes misleading. Sometimes, I have observed it's only the mother who is not able to observe the symptoms much.

4) Difficulty in gesturing
The child finds it difficult to gesture like nodding and waving. Also, you don't see many of the non-verbal expressions which are otherwise common among children.

5) Aloof and difficulty in socializing
The child finds it difficult to connect to people and is aloof. You observe this in school, parties and other social settings. The child is not shy but is genuinely finding it difficult to connect to people. A shy child might make eye contact and shy away, which is different from being disconnected and in his/her own world.

6) Difficulty in communication
The child finds it difficult to have a to and fro communication. They might repeat what you say, sing rhymes or songs, say their numbers and ABCs but not communicate with another person. The difference between talking and communication is an important point here.

Most of these symptoms will be observable by the time the child is 2 or 3 years of age, and sometimes earlier. I have heard some people say that assessing a child before the age of six is not advisable as they need to grow up before getting assessed. This is not true, the child shows these symptoms early in life and it is best to get the child and parents the help they need at the earliest. Here, I would like to mention my observation that many paediatricians are not equipped to assess the child and many parents lose precious time because the paediatrician is not able to read the symptoms. Hence, the assessment needs to be done by a developmental specialist.

So, when in doubt, it is best to get the child assessed. An assessment by a developmental specialist helps the child and the parents. Through an assessment the parents either know that everything is ok and they need not be anxious or are able to provide the right help and therapy to the child at the earliest. Early intervention and therapy helps the child immensely through these difficulties and facilitates the child to communicate and connect to the world.

Creative Corner

arr TA Proper, Stroking & Time-Structuring
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arr Feelings
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arr From Playing Games to becoming Sportive
- Kiran Katawa
arr Personal Growth through TA
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arr Autism
- Sapna Sajan
arr TA in South Africa
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arr Force or Source
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arr A Ranty Soliloquy on Writing!
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arr A Teenage Contract
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arr Book: From Anxiety to CTA
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