Turkey marks World Autism Awareness Day
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a group of neurodevelopmental disorders of variable severity characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction.
“Individuals suffering from severe autism face difficulties in maintaining eye contact, performing daily skills and self-care,” Fatma Nur Tilev, who teaches handicapped children in Ankara, told Anadolu Agency. “Our main problem with autistic students is communication,” she said.
She said another problem she found challenging was the obsessive behavior of the autistic students, noting this should be addressed at an early age. “It is crucial to tackling such problems when the autistic individual is young. With the right education and training, they can develop the same social behaviors as their peers," she added. Referring to an autistic student of hers that she started working with at an early age, Tilev said he was later able to continue his education in a standard way just like other students without a disorder.
Boran Ömer Bora, a coach at Ankara Altay Balgat Football School in Ankara’s Çankaya district, said he always brought autistic children into his team without discriminating them.
“Well, it’s true that they have difficulties in adapting, but they develop quickly if the necessary training and care are provided,” he said. Bora added that all people should feel responsible to break the taboos associated with autistic people. “Our students without disorders welcome autistic kids, and they become friends over time,” he said, noting this would contribute to both sides’ development. “We are in close coordination with the doctors and special trainers,” he added.
He said one of his students was diagnosed with autism and demonstrated such development over time through his training and the friendships he made while on the team that he received a report suggesting he had gotten rid of autism completely. “If you love and respect people with autism and care about them, they are able to accomplish anything,” he said.
A mother of a 15-year-old autistic child, who asked not to be named, said the education of autistic children should be based on real-life activities and experiences. "Real-life learning is crucial for autistic kids as they improve their social interaction with others,” she said. She said her son was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and their lives had drastically changed since then. "But with proper education, we have accomplished a lot thanks to sports and special care. The public should embrace these students and the state should provide more facilitation," she added.
According to estimates from Turkey's Autism Platform, which was formed by NGOs established by parents of children with autism, there are roughly 550,000 autistic individuals in Turkey, 150,000 of whom are below the age of 14.