Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder whose symptoms are visible in the first three years of life, in every geography and all socioeconomic levels. United Nations proclaimed the 2 April as the World Autism Awareness Day and in Turkey, like the rest of the world, various activities are organized throughout April to underline the importance of early diagnosis, treatment and training services.
The first step of the awareness is to know the symptoms of the autism and refer to the relevant departments of the health facilities. It is essential that parents, teachers and healthcare professionals realize the early symptoms of the disease to ensure integration of these individuals into the social life. Baseless beliefs and fear of discrimination and stigmatization may delay the diagnosis and treatment of the autism. It should be borne in mind that early diagnosis provides positive results on the treatment of the disorder. After the diagnosis, the most effective treatment is the intense, uninterrupted and qualified special training.
Awareness is especially important for the personnel working at the primary healthcare services where infants and children are monitored as of their birth, other professional groups working in the field of pediatrics and parents. To this aim, awareness trainings are organized throughout the country as of 2014 and awareness activities are held during April on the occasion of the 2 April World Autism Awareness Day. In this regard, awareness training has been provided for a total of 280.180 persons – 61.276 healthcare professionals. Moreover, autism awareness trainings were provided for the healthcare professionals working at the Migration Health Centers, in cooperation with the WHO, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and the Turkish Ministry of Health.
Establishing the Chain of Early Diagnosis Treatment and Intervention
Autism Spectrum Disorder Screening and Follow-up Program was started in 2017 in order to establish the chain of early diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. In this regard, teams were formed with the participation of 98 pedagogues and 163 professional staff (child development expert, psychologist, social worker) in 40 provinces. It is targeted to spread the screening-diagnosis-treatment and rehabilitation chain throughout the country by ensuring that screening activities are performed meticulously at the primary healthcare facilities and the relevant cases are referred to the second and tertiary healthcare services.