Autism : Definition

Features/Characteristics

Affecting approximately 1 person in 100, autism is a combination of neurological disorders affecting development starting from the youngest age. Those malfunctions appear in 2 different ways :

communication and social interaction
behaviour, activities, and limited interest

The importance and consequences of these disorders vary significantly for one person to another. Since the release of the 5th the edition of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5), we prefer to talk about Autistic Spectrum Disorder rather than Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD).

Causes

Autistic disorders are caused by multiple factors and is in first place, a neurological malfunction causing difficulties in communicating and interacting with others. Indeed, current research shows that the abnormal brain development during early childhood could be caused by neurological or genetic anomalies. Every year, research progresses and helps us to better understand the disorders generated by autism. However, it is still difficult to measure the value of these different explanatory factors, since the interaction between gene and environment is very complex.

Diagnostic

According to the recommendation of the HAS ( High Health Authority), an autism diagnosis should be supervised by specialised medical professionals, such as psychiatrists or neuropediatrics. Autism diagnostic for children is based on a set of clinical signs gathered by practitioners in different situations. First of all, an interview with the parents is conducted to study the social reactions of the child. Then clinical observations and exams allow the gathering of specific information about the child (psychological, linguistic, behaviour and psychomotor examination). Generally, the diagnostic takes place over several half days.

Treatment

Dealing efficiently with autism requires a diagnostic, an evaluation and most importantly an early intervention. Indeed, it is essential for the child receive early care in order to reduce the eventual behaviour disorder and improve his social and linguistic skills. In terms of guiding, each person exibits specific needs and should follow an personalised program.

Since 2012, the HAS ( High Health Authority ) recommend an overall treatment (educational, developmental, behavioural) rather than psychoanalytics. In France there are several structures that allow one to follow an adapted program : associations, specialized centers (IME, Sessad), CLIS (Social Integration Classes), UIP (Pedagogical Integration Unit) and UE ( Teaching Unit in ordinary environment). Centers, schools, and specific programs are being created each year in France and are able to welcome more and more autistic children. Even if, for the time being, the infrastructures are still insufficient to meet all needs.

Concerning ASD treatment methods, different educational techniques can be used : ABA, PECS, MAKATON or TEACCH,... These methods are complementary : in most cases, they help to reduce autistic disorder, to develop autonomy and improve significantly the quality of life of persons with ASD and indirectly their relatives.

For more information
What is ABA ?
Advice for parents

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