Autism is a term that can define multiple pathologies. Autism or autistic decline occurs in some forms of psychosis, in advanced stages of the disease where the person closes in on himself and becomes completely disconnected from reality. But the term is most often used to refer to infantile autism, a condition that occurs in childhood. There are different kinds of infantile autism, such as Asperger's syndrome: autistic children are sometimes called "idiots savants" because they have particularly developed intellectual faculties. More typical is Kanner's autism. Autistic disorders begin in early childhood and are manifested before the age of 3. Among symptoms common to all kinds of autism are behavioral disorders, impaired social relationships and communication disorders. Childhood autism is usually suspected from the first months of life with suggestive signs, but will often be confirmed after the first signs of psychomotor development.
In its typical form, called Kanner's autism, the signs are:
- atypical behavior of the baby, too quiet or too agitated;
- an unusual and remote relationship with parents (no smiles and no eye fixation);
- the child gives the impression of not being interested in his surroundings;
- trouble sleeping or feeding are possible;
- posture of the child may be atypical, considered abnormal;
- Sometimes, the child has stereotyped and repetitive movements such as rocking;
- in the course of evolution, symptoms worsen and typical acquisitions are delayed in comparison with the normal: language arrives later and children often prefer to spend time alone.
In the characteristic phase, the following elements are manifested:
- highly variable behavior with the absence of interest in games, a preference for repetitive activities or interest for things that are mundane, like pieces of string;
- difficulty with social relationships, a tendency to play alone, not to seek contact, to run away, and to not not interact with surroundings;
- communication disorders with impaired language acquisition and little physical expression.
For now, the diagnosis of autism is primarily clinical and requires several examinations. It is based on several points, such as a long and accurate dialogue with parents to evoke particular signs. Testing also looks into the behavior of the child while under observation, in scenarios of communication and interactivity, or the use of psycho-motor skills. It also seeks to eliminate other disorders, whose symptoms may be close to those of autism. It is usually requested to complete these tests with brain imaging, including MRIs, electroencephalograms, as well as genetic testing in search of a congenital or hereditary disease.
Autism does not yet have a cure. Children with mild autism can sometimes stay at home, but often have a comprehensive care in specialized institutions or care networks, continuously or in the form of repeated consultations. Support is based on child psychotherapy, pushing the child to develop social relationships, sometimes with the help of medication, and of course with the support of loved ones.
Original article published by
. Translated by Jeff