We have come so far in some many ways, but it is sad to see that so many children with special needs in Bangladesh still face social, cultural, and institutional stigma on a daily basis.
Some progress has been made in the past year, with schools establishing special therapy centres that offer the personalized attention and care children with neuro-developmental disorders need.
However, while these schools are doing a commendable job, as a society we need to address the larger issue of the shame and silence that goes along with having autism and other NDDs, which can be difficult to address, and can take on subtle and insidious forms.
When it comes to removing the stigma, it all comes down to awareness -- awareness that is fostered by parents, teachers, and society at large, and made part of the policies of our educational institutions at all levels.
Having a neuro-developmental disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, and most tolerant societies have moved far past stigmatizing children with NDDs, while recognizing and respecting their special needs.
Most people will never fully understand the reality of a child with NDD -- indeed, most of us have the privilege to not have to face the unique challenge of raising special needs children.
Can we not, as a society, increase our understanding of such matters so that we can be more sensitive to the reality of special needs children and their families?
These children and their families do not want pity, or condescension -- they want only to be included in activities that others take for granted.
We must work to end the stigma once and for all.