Autism spectrum disorders

Autism is a psycho somatic disorder - a condition that affects mental and physical well being. In fact autism is not a single disorder rather a group of ailments that is classified as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Autistic children have problems with social interactions. They may also encounter problems with verbal and non-verbal communication, exhibit pattern of repetitive behavior with narrow, restricted interests, hyper sensitive to light, sound, touch etc (sensory overload). It has been observed that incidence of autism is more among boys than girls. Depending on the severity, ASD is diagnosed early in infancy. Otherwise majority of the cases are diagnosed anywhere between the age of 2-5 years. Interestingly, there are many individuals who may have ASD but never aware of it. Though the exact cause for autism is unknown, genetics plays an important part. Environmental, immunological and metabolic factors may have a contributory role.

Since, it is a spectrum of disorders, there is no single reason attributed to this condition. Genetic, environmental, immunological and metabolic causes may be the contributing factor. Where genetic basis is identified as a cause, palliative measures are initiated immediately. When the reasons are not clear, diagnosis, classification and management invariably gets delayed.

As stated earlier under watchful eyes of parents or family physicians, autistic symptoms could be recognized early. Severely autistic infants do not make normal babbling sound and have abnormal eye movements. On the other hand many infants seem to develop normally with babbling, following moving objects etc. However, as they enter into toddlerhood many of the autistic related symptoms begin to unfold. Some of the symptoms include but restricted to limited vocabulary, unable to follow verbal or facial cues, abnormal eye movement or hand eye co-ordination etc. They also tend to make incoherent sounds. These children also do not follow simple commands. Many times these symptoms are glossed over delaying early diagnosis. Denial, my child is normal attitudes contribute to the delay in early diagnosis.

In general ASD is loosely classified into five different types. However, this classification is hotly debated.

1.    Pervasive developmental disorder(PDD) - Children suffering from PDD show delay in development of social and language skills

2.    Kanner’s syndrome - This is most common type of autistic disorder. They live in their own world and have poor social interactions. They do not like any change in their routine. Individuals with this disorder  get affected by loud sounds and cannot lead a normal life as they have low communication skills

3.    Rett’s syndrome - Usually seen in females and is quite rare.   They are mentally retarded and show muscle atrophy. The individuals show repetitive hand movements.

4.    Childhood disintegrative disorder- The symptoms starts to appear in   otherwise normal children between 2-4 years of age.  They stop talking and interacting with people around them.  Individuals  start losing motor skills after the age of two

5.    Asperger syndrome- Often misdiagnosed as obsessive –Compulsive disorder or Attention –Deficit disorder. They don’t show normal social interactions and have problems communicating. Children with Asperger syndrome show repetitive actions and exhibit poor motor skills. Some are thought have talent on which if they focus on could reach great height.

Autism is known for decades, unfortunately, there are very few medications available to treat ASD. However, not all hopes are lost. In contemporary medical system (allopathic medicine) different symptom specific treatment options are offered for autistic patients. It is to be noted that these are mood altering medicines. Therefore, qualified physicians should be consulted and the medications administered under care.

Ayruvedic approach: In ayurveda there are some herbal medications prescribed for autistic individuals. These are more of remedial measures than cure. Therefore, these medications are to be taken for life.

As in many mood altering disorders, besides medications, management is suggested. Very interestingly, an Indian mother of an autistic son, Mrs. Soma Mukhopadhyay, developed Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) to train autistic children to lead near normal life. This has been demonstrated to be a boon for several severely autistic children. Her son Tito Mukhopadhyay is indisputably the most famous Indian with autism. With his mother’s guidance he had written many poems and authored a book titled “Beyond the Silence: My Life, The World and Autism”. Noting her revolutionary method she was brought to the United States by Cure Autism Now Foundation. Since then she had refined her techniques. Currently she is running “Helping Autism through Learning and Outreach – HALO” foundation ( Recently, she had published a book “Understanding autism Through Rapid Prompting Method” that details the technique developed by her.

Currently there is no India specific statistics is available. Current estimates are extrapolated from US numbers. Though not validated for Indian population the current extrapolated numbers put the incidence to be anywhere between 1 in 250 to 500 people.

Support in India:

There are several support groups in India who work with the autistic individuals and their families.  Listed below are names and the websites for further reference: 1) Action for Autism (AFA; 2) SOPAN (, 3) Autism Society of India (, 4) Institute for Remedial Intervention Services (, 5) India Autism Forum (, 6) Ummeed Child Development Centre (

Of the above has an extensive and growing list of organizations that support both professional and families alike.


Understanding Autism Through Rapid Prompting Method; Soma Mukhopadhyay, Outskirts Press, 2008 ISBN 1432729284, 9781432729288.

Causton-Theoharis. J, Ashby. C, Cosier.M, (2009). Islands of Loneliness: Exploring Social Interaction Through the Autobiographies of Individuals With Autism. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 84-96.

Contributors: Pochi R Subbarayan PhD

Malancha Sarkar PhD

University of Miami

July 2010