What is autism?

Autism is an early neurodevelopmental disorder. Autism is characterized by impaired development manifested before the age of 3 years. The disturbances are evident in three areas: reciprocal social interactions, communication and behavior of a restricted, repetitive and stereotypical nature (for example, the child immutably repeats certain movements, certain routines or is interested almost exclusively in certain objects., etc.).

Professor Léo Kanner was the first to give autism a name in 1943. It is at Harriet Lane Children's Home that he follows eleven children (eight boys and three girls) whose histories, disorders and behaviors are different. But the American child psychiatrist of Austrian origin distinguishes common characteristics and describes them. The most striking is the inability of these children to develop any kind of sociability or to establish communication with those around them.

Note: Today, international classifications give up classifying types of autism into broad categories (Kanner, Asperger, TED-NOS, etc.), and have abandoned the long-used notion of "Pervasive Developmental Disorders" (TED), for the benefit of "Autism Spectrum Disorder" (ASD). But this revision of the terms being recent, and not yet generalized, you will certainly hear these expressions, these names, or this vocabulary during your steps, it is therefore important that you know them.

Signs of autism

Children with autism often have:

Difficulties in acquiring the use of speech, which sometimes appears "disorganized", that is to say that it is not part of a coherent verbal exchange. For example, we observe the repetition of words or phrases heard and repeated as an echo.

Repetitive behaviors with their body such as waving hands, swinging movements and manias. They adopt routine habits and shy away from changes that disrupt their world.

Anxiety attacks, sleep or eating disorders. They can become angry and have aggressive attitudes, including towards themselves.

Strong resistance to change.

Sensory hyper or hypo-sensitivity (sounds, light, colors, touch, etc.)

We cannot really speak of relationship breakdown and withdrawal into oneself, as in schizophrenia, since there has never been openness to others, to the environment. The child refuses all contact from the outside world. Any attempt at "intrusion" leads to a crisis, one thus speaks of "empty fortress".

Autism is often associated with other disorders, in 70% of cases children have a mental development delay with an intelligence quotient (IQ) of less than 70. Some of them are prone to epilepsy.

The causes of autism

The causes of autism are not yet fully understood.

In the 1950s, a current of psychoanalysis considered that bad relations between parents and their children could be responsible. This theory, which made the parents feel guilty, is no longer valid and has been replaced by explanations of a genetic, biochemical, immunological and traumatic nature.

Autism is described by the international scientific community and the WHO as a developmental disorder of the brain during its maturation period. Studies involving families have been able to highlight a genetic risk factor. The probability that a second child with autism will be born into an already affected family is 3%, which is about 60 times higher than in the general population.

Autism: is a cure possible?

There is no cure for autism. However, the earlier the diagnosis is made, the more the treatment allows the development of communication skills with others. In addition, appropriate care allows you to live better with autism.