What is autism?

Autism is a severe development disorder of neurobiological origin which manifests before the age of 3.

The symptoms can manifest in a number of different ways from person to person, which is why we talk of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

The symptoms manifest by:

  • a qualitative impairment in social relations,
  • qualitative impairments in communication, both verbal and nonverbal, with difficulties to organise information,
  • restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests and activities, which results in difficulties to generalise and to maintain what they learn.

  • To date autism is not curable.

    The benefit of early treatment is widely recognised. Care must be intensive, individualised, regularly reassessed, and it must be based on three components:

  • education working towards individual autonomy,
  • teaching aids working towards cognitive learning,
  • therapy working towards mental and physical health.

  • In the presence of an autistic child we are completely left to our own devices. We will only reach them in our relationship thanks to such skills as empathy, intuition, imagination and creativity.

    Some warning signs of autism:

  • Lack of eye contact.
  • Lack of interest in social interactions.
  • Poor attention span.
  • No speech or few words.
  • Inability to follow simple instructions.
  • Repetitive play schemes.
  • Difficulties to get into the learning process.

  • Autism
    Autism in India
    Links & resources

    Awareness of autism is rather new in India; indeed it is only in the last 15 years that schools specialised in autism have started to spread out in the country. Before fifteen years ago, autistic children were not diagnosed as such and were sent to "special schools" for children with all sorts of learning difficulties. Today an "autism society" exists in big cities such as Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai etc., but there is still much work to be done elsewhere...

    Links on autism in India

    For more information on autism in India, please click below...

  • Action for Autism (National Centre for Autism India, Delhi)
  • Autism Society of India (Bengalore)
  • Communication DEALL (early intervention program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Bengalore)
  • Autism Society West Bengal (Kolkata)
  • Ummeed - Child Development Center (Mumbai)
  • Support for Autistic Individuals (SAI) (autism school in Mumbai)
  • A blog about autism in India - with tips on how to find Indian schools, doctors, hospitals, speech therapists, etc.
  • A list of organisations working with autism in India from the magazine

  • Interesting books on autism

  • The Autism Trail Guide, by Ellen Notbohm
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
  • Nobody Nowhere, by Donna Williams -

  • Autism in India
    What is Down's syndrome?

    Down's syndrome (or Down syndrome) is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. It is associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features and mild to moderate intellectual disability.

    The main physical characteristics of Down's syndrome include:

  • reduced muscle tone which results in floppiness (hypotonia),
  • a small nose and flat nasal bridge,
  • a small mouth with a protruding tongue,
  • eyes that slant upwards and outwards,
  • a flat back of the head,
  • a big space between the first and second toe (sandal gap),
  • broad hands with short fingers,
  • their palm may have only one crease across it (single transverse palmar crease),
  • a below average weight and length at birth.

    Down's syndrome can be identified during pregnancy.

    After the birth regular screening for health problems common in Down's syndrome is recommended. Education and proper care can considerably improve the individual's quality of life. Speech therapy should be started very early age.

    Children with Down's syndrome have good hand-eye coordination so learning sign language may be possible. They enjoy to communicate and are performant in social skills, which is why augmentative and alternative communication methods such as pointing, body language, objects or pictures help them with communication.

    These children have enormous resources and a boundless joy of living, which can be rejuvenating for their family and entourage. They can also be great jokers, and very stubborn!

  • Down's syndrome