President Mamnoon Hussain has said children with disabilities were as important component of the society as any other person.
While addressing a function in connection with World Autism Awareness Day in capital Wednesday, he underscored the need for putting in place a robust mechanism for welfare and protection of children with disabilities. He asked media to take a leading role in spreading information about autism and persuading people to create greater space for the children of this disorder.
Expressing unwavering support of the government to special children, he said the government was working actively to free Pakistan of polio virus. He said religious scholars were being involved to ensure success of anti polio vaccination campaigns. He commended the efforts of all those institutions, societies, teachers and parents who were making efforts in creating awareness about this developmental disorder and were involved in giving these special children a better future.
The president said parents of children with ASD suffer a great deal because very few paediatricians, psychologists, speech therapists and educationists have expertise to deal with this disorder.
Due to limited knowledge and lack of awareness, there is little data available, and no one even knows the number of persons who suffer from ASD in the country, he said. Valid and reliable data is essential for the development of a comprehensive plan for the welfare of all persons suffering from disabilities.
The president said in Pakistan, there was paucity of data on the number of people who suffer from different disabilities. Besides the issues of surveying methodologies, a social stigma is also attached to disability; therefore parents do not give complete information to the surveyors. Sometimes a congenital disability is associated with superstition due to which the disabled are socially isolated and become objects of pity, or fear and hatred.
Apart from congenital disabilities, there are many other factors including malnutrition and disease, lack of proper vaccinations, especially against polio, environmental hazards, natural disasters, accidents, and various forms of conflict that are contributing towards increase in the number of the disabled in the country.