Defining Autism 7

We would like to share the things that the Dyslexia Association of India™ has learned mostly from families and children with autism because we think we're finding out that children with autism are very different.

We now widely recognise that children with autism have a wide variety of medical problems and research is showing an association with immune dysregulation with oxidative stress with mitochondrial dysfunction and with concern over toxic exposures.

We now believe that there may be many different starting points or underlying causes that lead to the set of behaviours and not much is known very clearly about the medical underpinnings and the reason this is so important is that different families might need to take different journeys to help their child

There are underpinnings of genetic susceptibilities like actual syndromes but more commonly refining genetic predispositions in the form of single nucleotide polymorphisms that can make subtle changes that make children different individuals is very concerning.

We would like to stress that a wide variety of environmental triggers and combination of genetics and environment are significant and that it is the timing that is actually quite important as for example a certain toxicant at a certain time in pregnancy can lead to severe problems but if that same cause is introduced a week before or week later with regards to whatever organ system is developing at the time the same effect doesn't manifest itself.

Environmental causes can be very important and we are seeing children who have been exposed during pregnancy to a variety of environmental causes developing autism symptoms. For example children who come from areas like Ghaziabad or the industrial towns have a prenatal history of being exposed to various types of air pollution have an increasing rate of autism. This is an association and not a definite causation, but proximity to mercury burning power plants is showing us an increase in the degree of autism as are factors like exposure to environmental factors like lead and nickel and cadmium.

Unfortunately in some ways we live in such a rapidly changing environment that there is a huge increase in sympathetic chemicals, which are new to nature that the human body is not able to understand how to handle it.

We get children who have been exposed to leather industries who are born with a lot of pollutants in their bodies and in some cases there can be more than a hundred over chemicals in cord blood and these babies are starting off their life with more of a toxic burden that children did fifty or a hundred years ago.

These carcinogenic chemicals are known to be toxic to the brain and nervous system and can be a major cause of birth defects.

Not every child is impacted by birth defects or a brain damage or cancer from these substances because the human body's adaptive mechanisms are able to handle the toxic burden but there are some infants who do not have a reserve to handle this toxicity.

The problem we notice is that when we get a child from the same place for example Moradabad who has been exposed to environmental toxins and that the child might tolerate substance if it was in isolation, but if there are other substances it can lead to synergistic toxicities and this is because exposure cannot occur in isolation.

We currently have a case of a baby who was born when the parents were living above a lead manufacturing unit for batteries in Mayur Vihar in Delhi and this childs neurologic disorders were probably expressions of the impact of environmental toxins on her as she may have been genetically susceptible.

This girl child threw up medical problems associated with intestinal pathology and oxidative stress with mitochondrial dysfunction problems with her detoxification system and immune dysregulation. In this case the mother was exposed to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and in all likelihood it caused changes in the developing baby that led to same generation genetic changes in the UC Blood leading to a biologically perfect child, but with serious autism. In this case we had reasons to believe that as there was no uplink in the family for this neurodevelopmental disorder, but that there might have existed a dormant inherited gene for the disorder autism may have resulted from a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental triggers.

The child is much better with the care being provided by the Dyslexia Association of India™ but the initial exposure to the PA Hydrocarbons did its damage.

Till now emphasis on potential environmental triggers or causes has been quite subdued and we believe that environmental factors can play a major role in children who go on to exhibit autism spectrum disorders.

In fact several specific environmental exposures have been found to confer a greatly increased risk for autism and external risk factors that promote congenital exposure elevate incidence rates.

Certain environmental factors can act on the developing central nervous system or may produce inflammatory reactions in the mother, which in some way affects the fetal brain. It may come as a surprise but even valproic acid and thalidomide, which, when used medically during pregnancy, induce autistic behaviors in the offspring.

In our view parents who are living in extremely industrialized areas must appreciate that environmental factors which should be broadly understood to encompass all that is not inherited, and spans the chemical, microbiological and physical world can create a sub-optimal condition for the neonate and can be a risk factor for autism.

Overall, the fact that both viral and pharmacologic agents are capable of giving rise to the same syndrome of behaviors known as autism or autism spectrum disorder indicates that the potential causes and their pathways are likely to be quite diverse.

The complexity of autism etiology is immense and the significance of environmental impact and multitude of exposures, can account for a certain percentage of cases in those with an underlying predisposition.

We believe that genetic vulnerability and environmental triggers could well be involved in a majority of cases, but as we industrialize and as genetic recombination occur, we are receiving children with symptoms that may have been removed from the human evolutionary stream and are surfacing due to better medical care. It is a bit of a paradox, that with better medical care we are saving a significant number of children, but allowing genes long forgotten to surface and genes which are vulnerable to mutation in a single lifespan being exposed to toxicity that is causing the neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism which are overwhelming the affected childs capacity for resilience.

Our suggestion is that if you find that your child is a ‘slow learner’ or is showing behaviour that you feel is a bit odd, like extreme sensitivity to name one, and you stay in a heavily industrialized and polluted area - please read more on our website and make an appointment to meet us. The time and effort spent in the course of one day with the DAI™ can help your child obtain the correct diagnosis and also we may be able to suggest measure that can assist in his/her developmental outcomes.

For further information and to book an assessment please contact the Dyslexia Association of India™ on our mobile number 88260 22886 or e-mail us at for more advice and information.

(Views and observations expressed in our articles are equivocal and personal based on our observations and experience. Being equivocal and personal they are non contestable and Individuals are under no pressure to confirm to our views, thoughts and observations. In addition the views expressed above are personal and do not and are not intended to challenge any medical facts and research. This is a private website and the views of the researchers contributing their opinions are personal and not challengeable. The accuracy ratio for screening and remedial processes of the DAI™ is extremely high.)