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Neurodevelopment and Autism in South Asia: Treatment and Evidence.


NAMASTE is a research project that will implement and evaluate a novel integrated detection and care pathway for young children with autism and their families in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, delivered by non-specialist health workers.

The project will also include a large training programme to grow much needed research and clinical capacity in the field of neurodevelopmental disabilities in South Asia.

Building on The University of Manchester’s own autism programme and more than a decade of partnership with India, NAMASTE is funded by the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR), using UK Aid Funding from the UK government, which supports global health research.

The project builds on a longstanding collaboration between Manchester and SANGATH in India, as well as an ongoing programme of research into neurodevelopment and care pathways in the UK and South Asia.

NAMASTE is a collaboration between researchers at Manchester’s Social Development Research Group, SANGATH, Autism Care Nepal, the Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians, Harvard Medical School, La Trobe University, Kings College London, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Ummeed, Mumbai.

Neurodevelopment and Autism in South Asia: Treatment and Evidence (NAMASTE) logo.


Mum and daughter having fun together outside.


Project background

Most children with neurodevelopmental disabilities living in South Asia have no access to services. This means that families are not given the help they need to fully understand their child’s needs and know how best to support them.

NAMASTE addresses this gap by developing and evaluating care pathways that involve both screening and identification of neurodevelopmental disability in children, followed by family-based supports to help caregivers understand and support their child’s development.

Specialist healthcare workers are scarce in many South Asian countries, so these pathways will be delivered by non-specialist community health workers, supported through training and supervision.

Drawing on other projects

This work builds upon a longstanding collaboration between SANGATH India and The University of Manchester, through which we have carefully adapted an autism programme developed for the UK to the South Asian context known as Paediatric Autism Communication Therapy (PACT).

The resulting Parent-Mediated Autism Social Communication Intervention for Non-Specialists Plus (PASS Plus)programme, delivered by lay health workers, is the first of its kind and has shown real-world impact in two initial randomised controlled trials, with large-scale evaluation underway in New Delhi. Learn more about the COMPASS trial.

The project also builds upon innovations by the World Health Organisation, which has led the development and field-testing of Caregiver Skills Training, plus developments in screening and detection within low resource contexts, led by collaborators in La Trobe.

The NAMASTE project also includes an important piece of work aimed at raising understanding and decreasing stigma around neurodevelopmental disabilities in the three countries through awareness-raising campaigns developed using community co-production.

Parents and two young children smiling.


Meet the team

See who is involved in the NAMASTE project.

The University of Manchester

Jonathan Green.Professor Jonathan Green

Principal Investigator

Lead investigator with overall responsibilities for the programme.

View Jonathan’s profile


Dr Shruti GargDr Shruti Garg


Lead investigator responsible for partner liaison and health system development.

View Shruti’s profile


Dr Kathy LeadbitterDr Kathy Leadbitter


Lead investigator responsible for capacity building, training and supervision.

View Kathy’s profile


Richard Smallman.Dr Richard Smallman

Programme Manager

View Richard’s profile


Sofia Ahmed

Project Coordinator


Dr Paul WilsonDr Paul Wilson

Implementation Science theme lead, NIHR ARC Greater Manchester

View Paul’s profile


Gemma ShieldsGemma Shields

Lecturer in Health Economics

View Gemma’s profile


Dr Catherine Aldred

Honorary Lecturer


Professor Linda Davies

Professor of Health Economics

View Linda’s profile

King's College London

Richard Emsley.Professor Richard Emsley

Professor of Medical Statistics and Trials Methodology

Lead investigator responsible for supporting statistical analysis.

View Richard’s profile


Dr Gauri Divan.Dr Gauri Divan

Joint Lead Applicant

Co-PI and lead investigator in India, with overall responsibility for coordinating between South Asia sites.

View Gauri’s profile


Gopika Kapoor.Gopika Kapoor

Parent Representative, PPI Global Health

Parent representative and community oversight on NAMASTE activities.


A photo of R Roy.R. Roy

Programme Manager


Dr Sunita Maleku Amatya.Dr Sunita Maleku Amatya

Chairperson, AutismCare Nepal Society

Lead investigator responsible for overall project oversight in Nepal.


Dr Rena Shrestha.Dr Rena Shresta

Director, AutismCare Nepal Society

Lead investigator responsible for the oversight on fieldwork in Nepal.

Sri Lanka

Dr Asiri Hewamalage.Dr Asiri Hewamalage

Consultant Community Physician, National Program Manager – Child Care, Development and Special Needs, Ministry of Health

Lead investigator responsible for overall project oversight in Sri Lanka.

View Asiri’s profile  

Dr Dilini Vipulaguna.Dr Dilini Vipulaguna

Postgraduate Trainee in Community Paediatrics

Lead investigator responsible for the oversight on fieldwork in Sri Lanka.

View Dilini’s profile


Dr John Naslund

Instructor in Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School

View John’s profile  

Dr Josephine Barbaro

Principal Research Fellow and Psychologist, La Trobe University

View Josephine’s profile  

Erica Salomone.Dr Erica Salomone

Associate Professor, University of Milan

View Erica’s profile  

Dr Chiara Servili

Technical Officer, WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Use

View Chiara’s profile  

Neal Lesh

Chief Strategy Officer and Co-President, Dimagi

View Neal’s profile  

Ayush Chauhan

Co-founder, Quicksand

View Ayush’s profile  

Koyeli Sengupta

Developmental Pediatrician and Director – Autism Intervention Services at Ummeed Child Development Center  

Pamela Dixon

Director of Clinical Services and Inclusion at Autism Speaks 

Grandmother hugging two grandchildren.


Contact us

If you have any questions about NAMASTE, please get in touch.

Sofia Ahmed

You can also follow Manchester’s Social Development Research Group on social media:

This project is in joint collaboration with:


Sangath logo.

SLCP logo.

ACNS logo.


Our collaborators are:


King's College London logo.

Harvard Medical School logo.

Quicksand logo.

Ummeed logo.

Autism Speaks logo.

La Trobe University logo.


Funded by NIHR:


NIHR National Institute for Health and Care Research logo.

 UK International Development logo.