What is autism?

Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder, that is, you are born autistic and you have it for the rest of your life, it does not get caught and you do not cure it. Autism is not a disease but it is a handicap for autistic people. When we talk about autism, we refer to a wide variety of expressions.  Some autistic people are non-verbal and need a lot of support while others have a "discreet" autism in the eyes of others, speak well and are more self-sufficient. Autistic people have an intelligence either in the average (Qi 70-130) or deficient (Qi<70) soit="" efficiente="" (qi="">130).</70)> Some specialists consider that conventional tests do not appear to be suitable for non-verbal or poorly developed people with autism, so we must be vigilant with the interpretation of the results.  Autism is a spectrum in which individuals are found at varying degrees, hence the term "autism spectrum disorder mild, severe or moderate" as defined in the classification used in Belgium (DSM 5). The precise level of severity does not refer to the possibilities of evolution of the person but to the intensity of the symptoms and thus to the level of support necessary. It's a picture at a certain moment! The level of functioning is in relation to the autonomy capacities of the person and not in relation to his IQ. In any case, all autistic people can progress if they receive adequate and sufficient support. Autistic people present "autistic dyad": Alterations in communication and socialization as well as repetitive activities and limited interests. They have sensory peculiarities (hyper/hypo sensitivity), for example many present hyperacusis, a dysoralité, do not support bright lights or be touched.  Some present behavioral disorders, they are not a symptom of autism but rather a manifestation of a difficulty in adapting to its environment because of sensory, social and communicative difficulties. Autistic people have a different understanding of social situations, a perception and sensoriality different from neuro-typical.  Many specialists consider that a deficit in the theory of the mind (understanding of the mental states of others) and a lack of central coherence explain the atypical peculiarities of autistic functioning. It is also known that, at the level of cognitive functioning, neuropsychological tests reveal a heterogeneous intellectual quotient in a large majority of autistic people. This is often observed with strong skills in the interests and weaker skills in other areas. There is also a deficit in executive functions, which is expressed on a daily basis by a difficulty in organising, concentrating, planning and a significant lack of flexibility.

What are the symptoms?

Here are the diagnostics criteria described in DSM 5 *

  1.   Persistence of difficulties in social communication and interaction in multiple contexts, manifesting themselves or having manifested themselves as follows: 
    1.  Deficits in socio-emotional reciprocity;
    2.  Deficits in non-verbal communication behaviours used for social interactions;
    3.  Deficits in the development, maintenance and understanding of relationships
  2.   Repertoire of restricted and repetitive behaviours, interests or activities characterized by at least two of these criteria:
    1.  Motor movements, use of stereotyped or repetitive objects or vocalization;
    2.  Insistence on similarity, inflexible adherence to routine or ritualized patterns of verbal or non-verbal behaviour;
    3.  Very limited and frozen interests with an abnormal degree of intensity and focus;
    4.  Unusual reaction to sensory stimuli or unusual interest in the sensory aspects of the environment.
  3. The symptoms must be present from the early development period. However, they can only be fully manifested when limited capabilities will no longer meet social demands, or be masked later by strategies learned.
  4. Symptoms lead to clinically significant deficits in the social, professional or other areas of operation.
  5. Intellectual Handicap (intellectual development disorder) or a general delay in development do not justify these disorders better. »

* Unofficial translation of DSM 5