The term autism is derived from the Greek word "autos" and that means "self". Because people with autism do not or very difficult to make contact with other people and live seemingly withdrawn in themselves, in their own psychic world. But not because they do not want it, but because they lack the ability to interact with their environment, understand it and express their own feelings, for a reason unknown to this day. In Germany it is estimated that about 35, 000 people live with autism, boys are born three to four times as often with this disorder.
Definition of autism
Autism does not refer to a single, specific disorder. The term autism covers a whole range of developmental disorders that affect different areas to varying degrees. The spectrum ranges from simple behavioral problems and above-average intelligence to a serious disability.
And although the majority of people with autism are intellectually more or less restricted, they often have amazing skills in individual areas. Some have an incredible ability to memorize and can memorize entire phone books or road maps in no time at all, or they are amazingly fast on certain computing tasks. Autistic traits can also be found as a consequence or in connection with other diseases or mental disabilities.
So there is a wide range of autistic disorder patterns. The demarcation is not always easy and therefore at times even among experts quite controversial.
Syndromes and forms of autism
There are now about 30 syndromes, which are often associated with autism or at least a more or less pronounced autistic symptomatology. However, if one usually speaks of autism, it usually means the severe, classic appearance of autism, namely the so-called early childhood autism, or also called Kanner syndrome. In addition, a weaker form of autism is still very often mentioned, namely the Asperger syndrome.
Autism: causes and diagnosis
For a long time, the parents were blamed for diagnosing "infant autism." Errors in education and "refrigerator mothers, " meaning mothers without any warmth or caring for their child, are the causes. Heavy, incriminating allegations for parents who were themselves helpless and helpless before their own child. In the meantime, however, this assumption has been scientifically refuted. We know today that autism is not the result of a single external influence, but has multiple causes.
Genetic predisposition plays a crucial role, and scientists believe that it is not based on a single gene, but that several genes are involved in the development of autism. In addition, various other disorders are assumed. For example, there is evidence of brain dysfunction that may interfere with perception and information processing.
Kanner syndrome (early childhood autism)
Early childhood autism is always noticeable before the age of three. First symptoms show up soon after birth. The babies often drink badly and have sleep problems. Then you notice that they do not make eye contact and do not react to smiles, for example. Also missing is usually a separate mine game that expresses or accompanies the feelings of the child. The typical behavior of parroting syllables can also be missing.
The development of the language often remains completely, and when a child starts to speak, the speech melody is usually completely unfamiliar. There seems to be no interest in the people in the area, the child does not seem to notice them at all. It is also imitated no behavior, such as waving goodbye. Often, the children resist body contact, even against hugs, by screaming or crying. In the course of development more and more abnormalities are added. For example, the children are often struck by the fact that they do not play with peers and do not seek contact with them. Most develop so-called stereotypes, which are recurrent movements, such as the spinning of a small wheel or back and forth with the body.
Some children tend to hurt themselves by biting or beating themselves. Special interests are usually missing completely. And almost always, they react in panic to changes, such as when suddenly furniture in the room is changed or another way is taken while shopping.
Asperger as a form of autism
Asperger syndrome is much more mild than early childhood autism. The children usually learn to speak very well and usually have average or even above-average intelligence. As a result, the diagnosis is much more difficult and the disease is therefore often recognized only in preschool age.
However, the first symptoms are noticeable even before the age of three: The children are usually very awkward in their movements and the main feature is a severe contact disorder, and friendships with other children almost never exist. Furthermore, they stand out for their lack of empathy, which makes them tick everywhere and socially largely isolated.
Early diagnosis possible
The diagnosis of early childhood autism can be made very early today with the help of special checklists. And that is a good thing, because the sooner the diagnosis is made, the sooner the course can be set for a better development of the child. It is known, for example, that the greatest successes in language development can be achieved if funding is started before the second year of life.
If, on the other hand, you do not start until the child is four or five years old, you will only be able to correct, but you will not be able to change anything fundamentally about language development. However, it is important to think about the possibility of an autistic disorder in the first place. Therefore, parents who find their child's behavior conspicuous should discuss this with the pediatrician. Because at first nobody knows a child better than their own parents, not even the pediatrician, who usually only sees a child for a short time.
The problem is that there are of course so-called late developers, which simply develop more slowly than other children. In case of doubt, a specialist should be consulted. In this specific case, this would be a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
Autism is not curable according to the current state of knowledge, neither with medication nor with other methods. The treatment of a person with autism today is in the best possible support to help him as independent a life as possible. In doing so, the treatment plan will be individually different depending on the resources and abilities of each child.
For example, behavioral therapies have proven to be effective, with the aim of communicating social and communicative rules to the affected persons and arousing their interest and abilities in interacting with their environment. Furthermore, individually appropriate school promotion is necessary in order to create the possibility of occupational employment later in life.
A drug treatment may be necessary at times, but then aims at concomitant symptoms such as a depressive mood, coercion with self-injury or extreme restlessness. Ultimately, the individual patient and his or her peculiarities will determine the type of treatment and thus the goal that can be achieved.
Ideally, it is possible that those affected later live relatively independently and can perform a variety of activities. In reality, however, only about one to two percent of people in adulthood live an almost inconspicuous life. This should be concerned parents always aware. Not to resign, but to overburden yourself and your child with too high expectations at some point.