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Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder which is defined by deficits in social reciprocity and communication, and by unusual restricted, repetitive behaviors.It begins in early childhood and characterized by qualitative impairment in communication skills, social interactions and reciprocity, imagination and play. Autism Spectrum Disorders can be explained under the disease Unamada in Ayurveda.The majority of clinical features of different varieties of Autism Spectrum Disorders resemble features of Vatika and Kaphaja dominant Unmada.


The classification of Autism Spectrum Disorders has undergone many revisions with progression of knowledge and time. At present, the diagnosis of Autism spectrum brings all similar disorders with Autistic features under one umbrella. The Autism Spectrum Disorders include the following conditions.

  • Autistic disorder
  • Asperger Syndrome
  • Rett Syndrome
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)

Earlier Autism was included under the broader category of Pervasive Developmental
Disorders. The term Pervasive Developmental Disorders refers to a group of disorders
characterized by abnormalities in communication and social interaction and by restricted
repetitive activities and interests.

Signs & Symptoms(Lakshana)

  • Clinical Features of Autism Spectrum Disorders Social interactions and relationships:
    • Lack of eye contact and facial expressions
    • Lack of joyful expressions
    • Lack of gestures
    • Lack of sharing of enjoyment
      • Lack of response to name
    • Lack of interest in other children, prefers to play alone
    • Lack of sharing enjoyment or achievements with other people
      • Failure to form close relationships with peers or children of same age
      • Abnormal body posture
      • Unaware of other’s feelings or distress such as pain or grief
    • Difficulty seeing other’s point of view
      • Treating others as objects or tools.

Limited interests in activities and restricted and repetitive behaviours:

  • An unusual focus on parts of an item such as toy
  • Preoccupation with certain items or topics
  • Lining up toy or focused with only 1part of a toy (e.g., spinning wheels)
  • Limited or lack of pretend play
  • A need for sameness and routines such as eating same food or preferring same route for travel
  • Stereotyped behaviours – Repetitive hand flapping, rocking, or spinning movements
  • Intense interests in certain topics such as chemicals, vehicles etc.
  • Distress with small changes to the routine
  • Hypo- or hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli such as distress with loud noises or light smell)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Attention deficit – short attention span.

Associated problems

  • Mental retardation
  • Physical clumsiness
  • Seizures
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, or nausea
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety problems
  • Phobias or excessive fears
  • Transition-related stress
  • Excessive startle
  • Obsessions and compulsions
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication:
    • Lack of eye contact and facial expressions
    • Delay in speech or lack of learning to talk
      • Problems in taking steps to start a conversation
      • Stereotyped and repetitive use of language
      • Echolalia
    • Difficulty understanding listener’s perspective like meaning. Humour etc

Causes (Nidan)

The causes of ASD are still controversial. Genetic susceptibility as well as environmental trigger factors are considered as the most possible ones.

The causes of Autism (Unmada) in Ayurveda can be summarized into the following headings:

  • Beejadosha (Genetic alteration, mutation)
  • Aharadosha (Food related causes) such as Viruddhahara (incompatible foods).
  • Viharadosha (Inappropriate regimens)
  • Manaabhighata (Brain injury)
  • Vaikarikabhava such as Bhaya, kopa, soka and harsha (Emotional factors such as fear, anger, sorrow, pleasure etc

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