No Help For Autistic Children In Baghdad

autism iraq lara logan
Rahna Abdul is a single mother living in Baghdad. Her two-and-a-half-year-old son Alli suffers from autism and she struggles to get him the help he needs in the war-torn country.

The ongoing instability in Iraq is taking a toll on the well-being of the very young. And, as CBS News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Lara Logan reports, parents who need special services for their children often have trouble finding it.

Alli looks like any other toddler and until he was 18-months-old his single mom, Rahna Abdul, had no reason to think otherwise.

"Now, it seems as if he is in another world," Abdul said. "He is not with us.

That other world, Rahna believes, is autism. For the past year she's watched her son stop developing, stop talking and now at two-and-a-half he cannot do anything for himself. This once affectionate little boy shuns physical contact and prefers to be left for hours on his own.

"The hardest thing's that there isn't any connection between me and my child," Abdul said. "When I told him to talk to me, he doesn't have any response."

"I see him grow up in front of my eyes," she said. "But there isn't any progress in his mind."

The problem for autistic children in Iraq, Logan reports, is that almost nothing is known about this condition. Incredibly, the only doctor who did treat it, who founded a medical center in the name of his own autistic son, has fled the country. He left behind some social workers who try their best to help, but even they haven't been paid in four months. Rahna had to stop taking Alli there because the center is located in one of the most dangerous parts of Baghdad. And without the doctor it wasn't helping.

"I need a professional," Abdul said. "In order to recognize his state and in order to learn me how to practice with him."

Rahna knows there's no cure, but she and others believe there are many more autistic children in Iraq, who like Alli will never even have the chance to get treatment and she worries about his future.

"Who will take care of him if I die for example," Abdul wonders. "Maybe I go in the street out there and a bomb in my way, and I'll die. Especially in these situations, so who would take care of him? In his situation who would take care of him?"