Law aims to curtail discrimination of autistic children

Though a highly influential senior army officer in Bangladesh, Tofail Ahmed could only seethe when his child was rejected by the principal of an English-medium school in Dhaka.

Colonel Ahmed was summoned to the school one day in 2007, where the principal told him his 15-year-old son Ahnaf Tauhid Swapnil, had been expelled for creating constant trouble for his classmates.

autismBut Ahnaf is a good student. He isn’t violent. He is autistic.

“My second son Ahnaf Tahmid Bornil (13) is also autistic. So, I failed to get him admitted to any school,” Ahmed told Khabar South Asia. “Some of the schools demanded huge donations, which I cannot afford. What problem would it have caused if my son studied there?”

To fix the problem, Ahmed and other parents facing similar issues established the Autistic Children’s Welfare Foundation in Dhaka’s Mirpur suburb. Additionally, the Disabled Persons’ Protection and Rights Bill-2013, promises to bring relief to parents of autistic children by forcing schools to admit disabled students.

Legal opportunity

The government passed the law last October, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A high-powered national co-ordination committee headed by Bangladesh’s social welfare minister was formed to ensure protection of all disabled persons.

A national executive committee will implement the co-ordination committee’s decisions and district and sub-district level committees will also be created to stop the violation of rights.

The law allows aggrieved parents to file complaints against any school rejecting autistic children or against people infringing upon rights of disabled persons. Anyone violating such rights faces three years imprisonment, a fine of Tk. 500,000 ($6,430), or both.

“Law is a mere recognition. Unless the negative attitude of people about autistic children is changed, its implementation will be in paper,” Autistic Children’s Welfare Foundation Vice Principal Salma Begum—who campaigned for the law—told Khabar.

Caretakers of autistic children say the children usually benefit if allowed to socialise with other kids.

Major Arman Hossain’s 10-year-old son Tahmid, improved markedly during his three-year stay at the foundation. He is now enrolled at JessoreInternationalSchool.

“If proper attention is given and they are allowed to mix with the normal babies, many autistic children will recover,” Hossain told Khabar.

Insan Ali, headmaster of MirpurGovernmentHigh School, suggested vigorous campaigns favouring social integration rights of the physically and mentally challenged.

Courtesy: Khabar South Aisa