The Beautiful Mind, a special centre for autistic and mentally-challenged children, celebrated both Bangla New Year 1425 and World Autism Awareness Day befittingly. The celebration was enjoyable, educative and effective producing lasting effects. The centre got going thanks to voluntary initiatives of parents for welfare of autistic children from the end of last century. The media extended whole-hearted cooperation. These were the years before the UN declaration in 2007 to observe Autism Awareness Day on April 2 every year.
It got a strong fillip in Bangladesh when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina along with her daughter Saima Wazed Putul, who is working for autistic children, stepped in. Activities relating to autism are continuing countrywide. A department/institute has been set up at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) and a national network has been established. Bangladesh has made a mark internationally and parents and their autistic children have found a ray of hope.
Beautiful Mind has links with the national network and has established harmonious contacts. It is participating in national programmes of the government. Such mutual interaction is very productive to generate pragmatic and new ideas about how best to address autism.
It is a welcome sign financing from the government and international sources is available. Campuses for delivery of services to the autistic are increasing in public and private sectors. University-level research and activities are also there. What is now felt urgent is to ensure dedication and voluntarism needed to make the investments productive for welfare of autistic children, adults and their parents and money spent on administrative overhead is kept to the minimum level.
The government can consider if monthly allowance can be given to the disadvantaged parents in line with our national policy for other groups in the national budget for the fiscal year 2018-19. The minimum necessity of parents may be determined in consultations with reputed centres working in this field and modus operandi may be drawn up for effective payment.
The Beautiful Mind observed the World Autism Awareness Day this year on its own campus where autistic children and adults along with their parents, dedicated teachers and associates assembled. They came out with colourful banners and posters. The theme of the day was: 'Empowering women and girls with autism.' It attracted the attention of passersby as the procession beginning from the lush green field of Sector No. 5 Kallyan Samity passed through streets before returning to its campus with the same zeal. Thus the even concluded full of mirth.
The centre has published a carefully-edited attractive magazine, which contains an article that emphasises the need for developing affectionate families and also affectionate communities. It is the responsibility of the family, society and the state to attend them. There should be more research and they need lifelong facilities like dormitories so that the adults can stay there after the demise of their parents.
The Beautiful Mind observed the Baishakhi festival in its traditional manner to welcome the Bangla New Year 1425. There were various nicely set-up stalls on the ground floor and on the first floor of the building. Everybody moved in the fair, exchanged pleasantries, purchased attractive items and took traditional food items including 'Dhakaia Fuska'.
A clinic was set up under the care of this scribe's daughter Dr. Shamima Islam Shumi, mother of adult autistic Fahim Hasan. She found her very busy to attend the calls. A special feature of the programme was a lecture with video clips on the screen on Virtual Viruses from representatives of Quantum Foundation's Uttara Branch. A bulletin was also distributed on the way back. They eloquently explained the necessity to be careful about it, implored not to give mobile before one attains 18 years of age. It called upon all to come up for human and social welfare which reduces depression and loneliness.
The writer is an elderly economist, advocate and social activist.
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