LOCAL > Likening of autistic kids to atheists causes fury

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

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'Autistic children do not know how to believe in God because they do not have a section for faith in their brains,' sociologist Fehmi Kaya reportedly said.  AA photo

'Autistic children do not know how to believe in God because they do not have a section for faith in their brains,' sociologist Fehmi Kaya reportedly said. AA photo

Dilara Sarı Dilara Sarı dilara.sari@hdn.com.tr

Autism associations around Turkey have reacted angrily after the head of Adana’s Health and Education Associations for Autistic Children reportedly said autistic children were “atheists due to a lack of a section for faith in their brains.”

“Autistic children do not know how to believe in God because they do not have a section for faith in their brains,” sociologist Fehmi Kaya reportedly said. “That is why they don’t know how to pray, how to believe in God. It is necessary to create awareness [or religion] in these children through methods of therapy.”

He also reportedly said atheism was a form of autism.

Kaya’s statement caused a strong backlash in the country, with individuals and associations speaking out against his remarks. The president for the Association of Protection of Autistic Children (ODER), Engin Güngör, told the Hürriyet Daily News that the remarks were “unfortunate.”

“I do not know what purpose the statement serves,” Güngör said, adding that the media should also be sensitive toward the exposure of such statements.

“This is a statement that could upset around 3.5 to 4 million people,” Güngör said. “We believe that the press should feel the responsibility of that as well, and should look better into these things before publishing them.”

Kaya told the Daily News that his remarks had been taken out of context, with news reports “fixating on autism.”

“The message I wished to give was not about autism and atheism, but to highlight that these children cannot communicate, cannot form empathy, live in their own worlds and are isolated. I meant that we should take them out of their isolation with proper therapy methods,” he said.

Kaya said development came in layers and that as autistic children developed further socially and mentally, a dimension of faith would also be developed.

“I meant that they were disabled, in a way, like a hearing disability, because they are not aware of why people believe. I did not say that all autistic people are atheists,” Kaya said, adding that faith would “normally” exist in kids.

Therapy sessions 'to make believers’

Kaya also said they would turn autistic children into believers through sessions that would be offered for free at therapy centers in the future.

The sessions, which have been confirmed by the Culture Houses of Adana’s Yüreğir Municipality, are set to start in June and will be able to serve over 30 children. The same houses will also offer further therapy sessions for children with disabilities.

When asked whether or not the houses aimed at turning autistic children into believers, a Culture House official confirmed the matter, but Kaya denied such objectives.

“Every child understands when you tell him or her to fear God, but an autistic child will not,” Kaya told the Daily News. “Once he starts to develop normally, belief will come in time. We do not have the idea of creating a section for faith in their brains.”

April/22/2013

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