Trichy: The combined therapy for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which was started at the siddha block of Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital (MGMGH) in September last year, is of high demand among the general public as at least 25 children with developmental disorders are being treated there on a daily basis.
Combined therapy, which integrates therapies from siddha, Ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy and varma, is said to a one-of-its-kind initiative in Tamil Nadu. According to AYUSH officials, the effectiveness of the integrated therapy is the main reason for an increased demand and acceptance among the people. District siddha medical officer (DSMO) Dr S Kamaraj claimed that if a child with ASD was brought for therapy at a very young age – ideally three years – the improvement could be such that they could attend normal school by the age of four or five instead of ‘special school’. “Initially when we started this new concept, there was hesitation among the general public and we hardly used to get even three patients a day. But looking at the efficiency, parents have finally got trust,” he told.
Officials also said that since the start of the therapy, there has been good prognosis for 40% of the children, while for the rest the therapy was continued. Nithyanandan from Kumaran Nagar in Trichy, who was at the GH for combined therapy for his eight-year-old son, said that he had been taking his son with autism for combined therapy for about a year and there was marked improvement. “My son started making eye contact and his hyperactivity and repetitive behaviour have reduced after bringing him for combined therapy. Massages and mud therapy especially have helped,” the parent said. A woman who had been taking her four-year-old boy for the same therapy for close to 11 months said that though her son’s hyperactivity was reduced – especially after mud therapy – repetition of words had not decreased much.
A child with ASD, when taken for integrated therapy, would be made to undergo the following procedure: Initially, it would be taught yoga and provided mud therapy (mud pack in eye and abdomen) for improvement in blood circulation and strength of the limbs, then provided colour therapy, massage therapy and varma therapy for sensory stimulation. Finally, they would be provided ayurvedic external therapies of panchakarma and shirodhara for attention skills. “Ayurveda is provided last because it needs a lot of patience which needs to be taught to children with ASD,” siddha medical officer Dr Vathsala said. Apart from these, medicines from siddha and homeopathy are also given throughout the course of the therapy. Experts said that though therapies could help better the condition, there isn’t a permanent cure, yet.
Meanwhile, some doctors have said that a major challenge they found in treating children with ASD was that they were being brought for treatment only after the age of eight. “That is because the parents refuse to admit that their children have ASD. They should understand that the more they delay the treatment the effectiveness of the therapy too would decrease multifold,” said yoga and naturopathy doctor at the siddha block of MGMGH, Dr K Isai Amuthu said.
Despite all these treatments, there is a general perception that the therapy provided isn’t complete due to the lack of speech therapy which is an essential part of ASD therapies. “Speech delay is common among children with ASD and hence only if a proper therapist is hired to provide this therapy, it could attain maximum efficiency,” a source said.