Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome – these are the most common holistic neurodevelopmental disorders, which belong to what is known as the autism spectrum. The brain of people with autism works in a slightly different way than the brain of people without the disorder. It perceives and processes information differently, and this has an impact on how we perceive the world and interact with other people. The steady increase in the number of people being diagnosed with autistic disorders is worrying. Why is this happening?

Autism – what is it?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder. The first symptoms of autism occur already in childhood and continue until the end of life. The disorder is currently one of the most common in the world. Brain function plays an important role in autism. Patients cut themselves off from the world and avoid talking to other people. Research shows that autism is associated with a kind of inner emptiness or even a large number of inner experiences/emotions.

Autism includes:

  • early childhood autism;
  • atypical autism;
  • Asparger syndrome.

Autism – causes

Autism is a condition that probably involves neurological problems of unknown origin. The most common causes of autism include:

  • genetic factors;
  • infantile cerebral palsy;
  • toxoplasmosis
  • gluten intolerance
  • casein intolerance
  • allergies;
  • problems with removal of toxins;
  • a father’s age that exceeds 40 years;
  • perinatal trauma.

Autism – what are the first symptoms of the disease?

Autism is a condition that becomes apparent before the age of 3. The child’s worrying behaviour is usually observed by parents – in some cases as early as infancy. They are concerned that the child is:

  • overly restless,
  • does not react to noise,
  • not looking at people coming in,
  • stiffens when picked up, stares for hours at one point, e.g. at a ticking clock, does not talk,
  • does not speak.

It is also sometimes the case that initially the child’s development is normal, but strange behaviour suddenly appears.

Types of autism

Autism affects boys more often than girls.

Autism includes:

  • infantile autism: this is related to the age at which it occurs and at which the first symptoms are observed (it does not mean that it only affects children). In this form of autism, there is hypersensitivity to smell, light, sound, touch or images. The child has difficulty adequately perceiving and interpreting the stimuli that reach him or her. This is probably caused by brain damage. The child, in order to cope with the internal chaos, closes himself in his own world and does not receive signals coming from outside (does not react);
  • schizophrenic autism: this manifests itself by the patient closing off in his own world, avoiding other people, conversations and contacts, and living in his own inner, empty world.

How does a child suffering from autism behave?

The child closes himself off in his own world. It is somewhat distorted, but so engaging that the toddler does not see the need to talk to people around him. A holistic developmental disorder occurs. The child avoids contact with peers and family. He stops talking to his mother for no reason, treats everyone around him like air. Does not allow himself to be touched. Stiffens when picked up. Doesn’t feel like doing anything. Doesn’t push parents to buy him a super car or an all-doing doll. Does not respond to pain. He does not rejoice when a hitherto beloved aunt drives by. When he gets his favourite ice cream – he does not show that he likes it very much. Subtle signs (grimace, gestures of other people) have little meaning for him. You can smile at him with the sincerest tenderness and he will not pay any attention at all and will not perceive this as something nice. He stops talking, and if he does speak, it is in a distorted way – squeaky, incoherent, repeating words or slogans from TV commercials. Instead of “I”, he says “you”. Uses incomprehensible phrases. Behaves in stereotypical ways – waving hands or going in circles. Becomes overly attached to certain objects. If someone takes them away from him, he panics. He doesn’t like it when someone changes his rituals. He likes to walk the same way, eat from the same plate, clean with the same brush. He hates any change in his daily routines. Children with less severe autism have a very selective and limited range of interests – hence they are sometimes experts in narrow fields. They sometimes show a remarkable memory, which, however, they do not use in everyday life, at school, or when interacting with people. Autistic children are often anxious, easily aggressive and have disturbed sleep patterns. The diagnosis is made by a psychologist, psychiatrist or special educator – based on observation and assessment of the child’s development.

Autism – diagnosis

Diagnosis of an illness such as autism takes time. In order to make a correct assessment, it is necessary to observe the child very closely, with frequent appointments at specialist clinics. Doctors observe the child’s behaviour in a variety of situations, whether during activities, with parents, alone or with a therapist and during play.

Specialists base their diagnosis on three groups of symptoms:

  • disturbances in social skills,
  • disorders of verbal and non-verbal communication,
  • impaired imaginative processes and a small repertoire.

Autism – treatment

Autism in children is a severe disease with an unfavourable prognosis, which depends largely on the severity of the symptoms and the degree of mental impairment. It is a disease that is difficult to treat. The child requires constant care. Treatment consists of various forms of psychotherapy – this should involve the whole family.

Pharmacological treatment includes:

  • stimulants,
  • antidepressants (in short-term therapy they are ineffective),
  • neuroleptics.

Therapy for children with autism mainly consists of educational and psychological support. Autism causes certain areas in the brain to be inactive, which consequently leads to developmental disorders. Doctors who care for autistic children stimulate certain areas in the brain. Please note that pharmacological treatment is implemented when the autistic child’s behaviour cannot be controlled. Sometimes it can be dangerous.

According to the latest research, autism can be cured. Of course, this is possible through early detection of the disease and therapy that helps to alleviate and eliminate the symptoms of autistic behaviour, and adapts to a normal life in society.

Autism – tips for parents

Consult a doctor as soon as your infant

  • does not babble before one year of age, does not develop speech,
  • isolates himself from his surroundings,
  • stops communicating with you and others, closing himself off from his own world.

It is extremely important to start treatment as early as possible.