2 April : World Autism Awareness Day
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood. Caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, it is a life-long condition with no medical cure.
It affects communication, speech, gesturing and listening. Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently. Early signs of autism can be detected at the age of 2-3 years. If a child does not make eye contact while speaking and does not respond when called by name or gestures, then a doctor should be consulted immediately.
Signs of Autism can include:
- Repetitive movements, words or phrases as well as limited interests or activities;
- Avoiding eye contact or physical touch. Over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light, colours, temperatures or pain;
- Learning disability or speech delay in a child;
- Getting upset by minor changes;
- Ongoing social problems that include difficulty in communicating and interacting;
- Difficulty in understanding facial expressions and tone of voice.
Once one learns about this neurological disorder, it is easier to break the stigma around it, to understand it and behave sensitively with the person. Screen time (use of electronic devices such as TV, mobile, tablets) should be kept at a minimum. Instead, the child should be given toys, books and interactive home-based situations.
As of 2016, autism affects about one child out of 68. It is estimated that one out of 42 boys will end up being diagnosed with autism. Boys are five times more likely to have the disorder than girls. In India, 1 in 89 children suffer from Autism. This disorder affects males and females of all races in all parts of the world.
Access to assistive technology at an affordable cost, can reduce the barriers to their participation on an equal basis with others. But more than 50% of these persons who need assistive devices are not able to receive them.
Let no one be left behind. “Let us reaffirm our commitment to promote the full participation of all people with autism, and ensure they have the necessary support to exercise their rights and fundamental freedoms.” UN Secretary-General António Guterres
6 April International Day of Sport for Development and Peace
This is an annual celebration of the power of sport and sports organizations to drive social change and human development, to foster peace, reconciliation and understanding.
Sport can promote tolerance and solidarity among the participants, fans and people all over the world. Historically, it has played an important role in all societies, be it in the form of competitive sport, physical activity or play.
The United Nations defines the right of access to and participation in sport physical education and play as a Fundamental Right for all. But this has often been ignored or disrespected.
Sport as a universal language can be a powerful tool to promote peace, tolerance and understanding by bringing people together across boundaries, cultures and religions. Its intrinsic values such as teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game are understood all over the world and can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.
Sport programmes permit encounters on neutral territory and in an environment where aggression can be controlled, regulated and transformed and hence facilitate reconciliation between opposing parties. Although sport alone cannot stop or solve an acute conflict, it represents a flexible and cost-effective medium for post-conflict relief work and peace-building as well as conflict prevention.
The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace promotes healthy lifestyles and focuses on giving as many people as possible access to sport. It is a passion shared by women and men across the world and promotes physical well-being and social empowerment. It is a powerful instrument to nurture the values of solidarity, responsibility, respect, honesty, teamwork, equality, motivation and self-esteem, including everyone, even the most disadvantaged, including refugees and migrants.
Physical inactivity leads to an estimated 3.2 million deaths every year.
We must do everything to support sport. Make sport for all a reality, and leave no one behind.
Sr Esme da Cunha FDCC
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