Can autism be cured by vaccination

Diagnosis of autism: signs, course and therapy

Early childhood autism & Co.

Children with autism live in their own world. At least that is the prejudice. What is behind the neurodevelopmental disorder?

Autism is a profound neurological Developmental disorder. It is usually congenital and usually occurs before the age of three. Autistic children find it difficult to process complex information, which can often lead to restrictions in social life. Dr. Carmen Unterseher, senior physician at the clinic for child and adolescent psychiatry at the Helios Hanseklinikum Stralsund, explains.

What types of autism are there?

In the past, autistic disorder was divided into clear subtypes. In the meantime, medicine has refrained from clearly delimiting the subgroups and assumes flowing transitions between milder and stronger forms of expression. We are much more likely to speak of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) today.

Early childhood autism or Kanner syndrome:

This form of autism starts very early and is often associated with language development disorders or a possible intellectual disability. Early childhood autism occurs before the age of three. A clear diagnosis is usually only made from the age of 18 months.

Intensive autism-specific early support can have a very positive effect on both cognitive and language development.

Dr. Carmen Unterseher, Senior Physician, Clinic for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry | Helios Hanseklinikum Stralsund

Atypical autism:

What is special about atypical autism is that although it is very similar to early childhood autism, it does not meet all diagnostic criteria. In an atypical autistic child, abnormalities can only appear after the age of three.

Asperger syndrome:

Asperger's syndrome is characterized by a later onset, from around the age of three, and in most cases runs without language development disorders. Asperger's autistic people have normal to high intelligence and good language skills. Often those affected tend to take things literally. Children and adolescents with Asperger's Syndrome experience sensory stimuli intensely, often have special interests and an aversion to change.

Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder:

Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder are two rare forms of autism and pervasive developmental disorders. In both cases, after an initial normal development, there is a loss of skills that have already been acquired.

How many children and teenagers are affected by autism?

A large-scale analysis in the United States found a rate of ASA in the 3-17 year old age group of 2.24 percent. Boys are two to three times more likely to be affected than girls.

Dr. Carmen Unterseher explains: "In recent years the frequency seems to have increased, which is most likely not due to an actual increase in ASA, but to the changed diagnostic criteria and the increasing level of awareness."

Causes of Autism

ASA is predominantly genetic and over 90 percent of it is inherited. However, the genetic causes are highly complex and diverse. Research has already identified over 100 genes that are involved in the development of ASA.

Symptoms, signs and peculiarities

Possible signs of early childhood autism in infancy are, for example, a rejection of the breast or problems with additional feeding. In addition, a pronounced disturbance of the sleep-wake rhythm can indicate early childhood autism. At the end of the first year of life, there is also often stereotypical gambling behavior.

Among other things, autism shows itself in mutual social interaction. The children affected make little or no use of eye contact, facial expressions, posture and gestures when they are together. There is a lack of interest in other children and social and emotional signals can often not be read properly. Your own emotional expression is also reduced.

Furthermore, there are impairments in communication: language development may be delayed, the child never chats or does not use the symbolic value of language. The latter is used at most for the exchange of information. The speech melody can be changed, it appears choppy and monotonous. Sometimes the children develop their own words, speak of themselves in the third person, or repeat words over and over.

The behavior can appear compulsive and ritualized. Children and adolescents on the autism spectrum like routines, frequently display repetitive behaviors, or may be interested in niche topics. Some have extraordinary intellectual gifts in their field of interest. "Above all, routine behavior can help autistic people cope with their everyday lives. Often it is this behavior that makes everyday life so difficult," explains Dr. Undererser. The play pattern of autistic children is often rigid and restricted. Often times, autistic children and adolescents are more interested in the details. Smaller children are often interested in airplanes, dinosaurs, timetables or comics. In addition, there are often motor stereotypes such as pendulum movements of the head or flapping of the hands.

Typical behavior and perception

Children and adolescents who live with an autism spectrum disorder process sensory impressions differently. They are more sensitive and often over- or under-sensitive to noise, smells or light. Sometimes they are overwhelmed with emotions such as fear, stress, anger or pain.

Autistic children and adolescents then often withdraw or find it difficult to control their emotions. Parents or caregivers should take their children's emotions seriously and try to understand the illness. Difficult situations can be prevented in this way in everyday life.

This is how you can make everyday life easier for autistic children and adolescents:

  • Overstimulation: Avoid crowds, noise, or strong lighting
  • Patience: Allow the child to get used to a new environment. Discover the world together with the child a little more slowly
  • Communication: Explain what to expect (e.g. on a noisy train or when shopping)
  • Safety: keep an eye on the child, especially in unfamiliar, new situations
  • Understanding: Show interest in hobbies and talents and give the child space for their habits
  • Education: The better the child's environment is informed about the disease and its effects, the more harmonious the coexistence can be. Teachers should also be informed about individual behavior and any special interests. In this way, development can be promoted in a targeted manner.

How is Autism Diagnosed?

For the diagnosis of ASA, standardized interview and observation instruments are used by trained diagnosticians. The so-called gold standard consists of a combination of a screening procedure (FSK), an interview (ADI-R) and an observation procedure (ADOS). Video recordings from everyday life and observation in schools and kindergartens are often helpful.

Therapy options

There is no cure for an autism spectrum disorder. However, individual therapies can improve cognitive and language skills. Social interaction and communication can also be trained in a targeted manner. Established, scientific therapy methods rely on behavioral approaches. In cooperation with parents, teachers and the environment, learned behaviors can be integrated into everyday life. Psychotherapeutic and medicinal forms of therapy are also possible.

Help and tips for parents

It is important that parents get comprehensive information and contact self-help organizations. While there is no cure for autism, symptoms can usually be substantially improved with appropriate support. Early intervention, behavior therapy and special programs for the treatment of autism (according to Lovaas or TEACCH) have proven effective. They are often offered by special autism centers and outpatient clinics. These help, for example, to apply for compensation for disadvantages and to find suitable forms of school and care.

Last updated on December 17, 2019