Our Projects

Research and Resource Development

Prevalence study

SOPAN is conducting a research study to estimate the incidence of prevalence of autismIndia. The study is being carried out as a sample survey from selected areas in the States of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. This is the first study for determiningthe estimated population of children with autism in India.In the first stage of this study, a house to house survey is being undertaken in selected municipal wards of Mumbai city. The survey is done on children between the age of 2 ½ to 8 years.

Empirical research studies by SOPAN professionals

Autism intervention is relatively new in India. Till recently, professionals could only get information on efficacy of intervention methods from researches done in the western world. However the felt need was to see the effectiveness of the methods on Indian children. These Indian studies have been published in national and internationals and books. Given below are their abstracts:  


Lal Rubina (2005)Asia Pacific Disability Rehabilitation Journal Vol. 16 No. 1

ABSTRACT A total of 80 schoolteachers and administrators participated in this survey research conducted in the USA. The study investigated the effect of inclusive educational placement, on development of elementary school age children with autism. The subjects were randomly selected from general schools, schools with resource rooms, schools with special classes, and special classes located in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Whereas the teachers (N=44)were required to respond on development of language and social behaviour in children with autism, their teaching strategies and available support system, the administrators (N=36) reported on the existing instructional practices, physical environment and related services in their schools. The results indicated that development of language and social behavior’s in autistic children did not differ significantly across the educational settings. A positive correlation existed between teaching strategies and support services and development of language and social behaviour.


Lal, Rubina and Lobo, Shiante (2007) Journal of Rehabilitation Council of India Vol. 3 no 2

ABSTRACT The purpose of this experimental research was to determine the effect of Discrete Trial teaching on the development of pre-learning skills in autistic children with mental retardation. A sample of 20 children was randomly selected for the study. Subjects were randomly assigned to experimental and control groups and tested on pre-learning skills prior to intervention. Discrete Trial Teaching method was used to train the experimental group on pre-learning skills. Intervention consisted of 15 individual sessions of 30 minutes each. At the end of the intervention period, the children in both experimental and control groups were posttested. The findings suggest that Discrete Trial Teaching has a positive effect on development of pre-learning skills. Children in the experimental group showed significant improvement in pre-learning skills from pre to posttest.


Lal, Rubina and Bali, Meeta (2007) Asia Pacific Disability Rehabilitation Journal Vol. 18 no 2

ABSTRACT Thirty children with autism from special education schools in Mumbai, participated in the experimental research that aimed to document the effect of visual strategy training on development of communication skills and compare its effectiveness with existing classroom instructions. Objects, pictures, symbols and manual signs were used as visual tools. The treatment group received 14 one-to-one sessions. Each session focused on development of comprehension, labeling, description, joint attention and active interaction through visual supports. Analysis of data showed a significant improvement in communication skills of children in the experimental group. Visual strategies were found to be effective in development of communication skills in children across the age range of 5 to 11 years.


Lal, Rubina (2010) Educational Research and Reviews Vol. 5 (3)

ABSTRACT Teaching children with autism is a challenging task for educators and parents, as the children display marked deficits in language and social behaviors. One of the major goals of an intervention program for children with autism is to provide them a method of functional communication and ample opportunities to practice these skills. For some children with autism, a communication system that uses alternative and augmentative forms of expression may be necessary. Children with autism (N = 8)between the ages of 9 and 12 years were selected from special schools in Mumbai for this experimental research. The study aimed to determine the effectiveness of Makaton Vocabulary Language Program, a system of alternative and augmentative communication (AAC), on development of language and social behavior of children with autism. The subjects received 12 sessions of language intervention using AAC. Language assessment tool for autistic children (LATCA) and social behavior rating scale (SBRS)were used as instruments for measurement. While the researcher administered LATCA, the classroom teachers used the SBRS as a checklist for social behavior. The comparison of their pre and post test mean scores showed a significant change in language and social behavior. Use of AAC had a positive effect on development of receptive and expressive language. AAC usage was also found effective in enhancing social behavior of children with autism. Key Words: Autism, AAC, language and social behavior, makaton vocabulary language programme.    


Lal, Rubina and Shahane, Anagha (2011) In Williams, T.(Ed.)Autism Spectrum Disorders: from Genes to Environment


Introduction: This paper presents the findings of a research study on TEACH based intervention for learners with autism. TEACH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and other Communication handicapped Children) follows a structured teaching approach. This approach addresses the characteristics and learning needs of individuals with autism. Structured teaching involves modifications of four components: physical organization, visual schedules, work systems and task organization. Physical organization refers to the structuring of a student’s environment. Physical boundaries are defined to help a student understand where activities are to take place. Visual schedules can be used to make a student understand the sequence of activities. They can take many forms depending on the individual need and level of functioning of the user. Schedules may be written for those learners who have the ability to read. For non readers, pictures or icons may be used. For those who require concrete representation, miniature objects may be included in the schedule. Work systems help a student understand what and how much work is to be completed, and what is expected of the student once the work is done. Work systems enable a student to work independently. Finally, task organization involves structuring independent work tasks to clarify what is required to be done and how it should be done.

Aim: The study sought to determine the effectiveness of a TEACH based intervention on the development of independence in work behaviour in children with autism.

Method: Twelve children with autism, randomly selected from four schools of Mumbai, participated in the study. The children were tested on Scale for Independent Work Skills (SIWS), developed for the purpose of the study. The SIWS assessed independence in work behavior’s through performance of tasks related to conceptual skills, daily living skills, pre-vocational skills and self engagement. The selection of items for each sub area was based on a review curricular goals, discussion with teachers, and general observation of classroom behavior’s of children with autism. The items were reviewed by domain experts to ensure the validity of content. The instrument consisted of a total of 34 items. The SIWS used a 5 point scale for rating a child‘s work behavior’s. Besides independent responses, the behavior’s were rated mainly on the level of prompt needed. Hence, whereas independent response was scored 5, symbol, picture, gesture and physical prompts were respectively scored 4, 3, 2 and 1. The test – retest scores yielded a reliability coefficient of 0.82 for the instrument. The SIWS was used as both pre and post test. An intervention program to develop independent work skills was designed using the TEACH method as a base. Of the four components of structured teaching, the program focused on use of visual structure and work systems. Modifying the physical environment was difficult since the children belonged to four different schools and the research protocol required that intervention be given in children‘s natural learning environment. Similarly, visual schedules were not introduced as the children were available for intervention for a limited period during the day. The intervention consisted of teaching the children to perform a set of tasks. The tasks ranged from ones that were suitable for 8 year olds to those that were doable by 13 year old children in the group. The final selection of tasks for a child was made on the basis of ability and the pre test assessment on SIWS. All children received intervention for 20 structured sessions of 40 minutes each.

Results: A statistical comparison of pre and post test scores indicated that TEACH based intervention had a positive effect on the ability to work independently in children with autism. The children’s performance on the selected sub areas of independent work significantly improved post intervention.

Key words: Autism, independent work behaviour, TEACH based intervention


Lal, Rubina and Ganesan, Kripa (2011) British Journal of Educational Research 1(1)


Introduction: This paper presents the findings of an experimental research that determined the effect of a social story intervention on development of self management of behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Social stories, developed by Carol Gray, are simple stories that describe social events and situations that are difficult for a person with ASD to understand. A social story facilitates social understanding between people who have ASD and those who interact with them.

Aim: The study was conducted to determine the efficacy of social story based intervention on development of self management skills in children with ASD

Methods and Procedures: A sample of 20 children with ASD (aged 10-14 years) was randomly selected from 5 schools and remedial centres in Mumbai. The children were assigned to treatment and control groups (N=10 each) after a pre intervention assessment on the Rating Scale for Self Management (RSSM) I and II. The RSSM, developed for the study, was an instrument for observation of self management behavior. RSSM I was used by the authors and the selected children’s teachers to observe the children’s self management of class room and play behavior while the children’s parents used RSSM II to observe their general behavior. The children in the treatment group were given 15 individual sessions of social story intervention. Six social stories were written for each child. The treatment included reading the social story to the child, reading of the story by the child, answering questions based on what was read, role play wherever possible, and follow up at home (for social stories on general behavior) by making the child read the social story. The control group children participated in the regular intervention activities of their schools/centres, during the treatment phase. Post treatment, both groups were reassessed on RSSM I and II. Results and Conclusion: A comparison of pre and post scores on RSSM of treatment group children showed a significant improvement. Also, their mean performance on RSSM post treatment was significantly higher than that of the control group. This indicated that social stories intervention was effective in enhancing self management behavior in children with ASD.

Keywords : ASD; social story; self management of behaviour;  


Lal, Rubina and Chhabria, Rakhee (2013) In Fitzgerald M. (Ed.) Recent Advances in Autism Spectrum Disorders


Floortime approach, a theoretical and applied framework for comprehensive intervention, examines the functional developmental capacities of children with autism and associated developmental disabilities in the context of their individual processing profile and their family relationship and interactive patterns. This paper presents the findings of a research conducted to determine the effectiveness of Floortime as an early intervention approach for development of social skills in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A total of 26 children with ASD in age range of 3 to 6 years participated in this experiment study. The children were randomly selected from 5 schools in Mumbai. A pre-intervention assessment of children’s social skills was done with Behavioral Scale for Social Skills (BSS) developed by the authors. The BSS was a 20-item observational tool that rated the presence of core social behaviors namely; turn taking, two-way communication, understanding of cause and effect, and emotional thinking, on a 4 point scale. The experimental group children (n=13) were given Floortime intervention. Each child received 18 sessions of intervention. The duration of a session was 30 minutes. The sessions were child centered and based on Floortime recommended procedures. The intervention focused on utilizing a child’s level of interaction through gestures and vocalization to first develop the foundation for shared attention, and then move the child up the symbolic ladder to communication through signs and words, the effect of communication on environment, and finally connecting the learned ideas by emotional thinking. At the end of the intervention period all children were observed on BSS again. A statistical comparison of posttest performance of experimental group children with that of the control group showed a significant gain in social skills by children in the experimental group. The result indicated the effectiveness of Floortime as an approach for early intervention of children with ASD.

Key words: Autism spectrum disorders, Social skills, Floortime approach