Barfi! It’s the ninth time I am watching this movie. Its plot, its characters, the way the movie is showcased never fails to amuse me even once. The story revolves around a deaf and mute boy and an autistic girl. The more I watch this movie, the more I find myself curious about autism.

Movies are one of the best ways to bring home a sensitive message. We often see that autism is not touched upon in movies, and even when it is, it’s not explicitly mentioned. Some movies depict autism as a difference, that we all should learn to live with, while the others evince a feeling of pity towards autistics; something that should be avoided as far as possible.
Many people are generally unaware of this disorder and often mistake autism with mental retardation. As the saying goes, ‘half knowledge is dangerous’. We must always gain adequate knowledge before creating our own mindset. The same goes with autism.
So, what is autism? Is it mental illness? The answer is a big no. It actually is a complex developmental disability. If experts are to be believed, autism presents itself during the first three years of a person’s life. The condition is the result of the neurological disorder that has an effect on normal brain function, affecting development of the person’s communication and social interaction skills. People with autism have issues with non-verbal communication, a wide range of social interactions and activities.

Autism is a wide-spectrum disorder which means no two persons will have the same symptoms. Some people can have mild symptoms while other can suffer from severe ones.
Sometimes, it is observed that autistic children do not like cuddling or being touched like the other children normally do. But there are also many cases where children do respond to hugs from relatives. Let us take the case of loud noises, smell or light. A person with autism usually finds sudden loud noises very unpleasant and shocking. The same can happen with the smell or variation in lighting. But if the autistic person knows that something is going to happen, he can cope with it much better than getting panicked.
Even the speaking skills get affected if a person is autistic. The higher the severity of autism, more affected are a person’s speaking skills. These people also tend to repeat words or phrases they hear, this event is called echolalia. The speech of the person with autism may sound much more formal and woody in comparison to other people’s speech.
Learning may be unpredictable in autistic children. Sometimes they may learn things even faster than other children, only to forget it in later on. It might sound surprising to know that, in some cases, they learn the hard way to do something even before they do it in an easier way.

It is a crucial myth that autistic people have no feelings. A person with autism feels love, happiness, sadness and pain just like everyone else. Just because they are unable to reciprocate their expression in the same way, people cannot assume that they have no feelings. This myth is purely a result of ignorance. You may be startled to know that some of these autistic people have higher IQs and are good in computer science.

It’s time that we create much needed awareness about the ordeal of an autistic person. I would like to conclude this article with a line from a beautiful movie, “Are we going to be remembered as the generation who saved whales but forgot the very human being who needed our help. We must remember every child has a right to express himself as he wants.”