The pandemic-induced school closure since March 2020 is causing a peculiar problem. According to educators and doctors, it is leading to delayed diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder in children. With regular schools in session earlier, it was easier for teachers to identify the signs of the disorders and alert the parents.
Indrani Basu, founder of the Autism Society West Bengal said, “It is difficult for parents to pick up signs, especially in those children who are on the milder end of the spectrum.” Delayed diagnosis prevents timely intervention, making it difficult for the children to develop coping mechanisms and learn important skills.
While earlier children with autism could be diagnosed from as young as two years of age, now the condition often goes undetected until the age of four. Apurba Ghosh, Director, Institute of Child Health told Telegraph India, “The earlier the intervention, the better the result. The improvement gets delayed if intervention is delayed. For example, if someone has mild autism, he or she might not need therapy. And with therapy, the condition might change from moderate to mild.”
Caregivers working with autistic children feel the reason behind this delayed detection is that the children function just fine at home. The signs are not clearly evident as the home is a familiar territory that doesn’t overwhelm the children. Moreover, telltale signs such as delay in speech and other stereotypic behavior get ignored because parents are often in denial. In such a scenario, online schooling is keeping the teachers from detecting the potential signs early on.