What is autism?
Autism, as well as other autism spectrum disorders (ASD), is just different, specific way of development. There are three, crucial spheres influenced by symptoms, which we can see in ASD person behaviour: communication, social relationships and interests, entertainment in children's case.
Is that autism?
That's the question most frequently asked by parents concerned with peculiar behaviour of their child. There are also adult people asking the same question about themselves, feeling anxiety related to their social functioning. To answer this, one needs a specialistic opinion of his development, especially early childhood period. That's the point of development interview and observation - natural surrounding is the best option in case of a child. Diagnose always requires confirmation of a doctor specialised in ASD.
What are signs of autism?
Firstly, you should note that development differences can be observed in little babies - event before the first year of life! This is, what should turn your attention:
- child's gaze does not follow the eyes of another person
- child does not look in the direction showed by adult
- child does not observe people or has less interest in them, than in non living objects
- child does not show other people objects of interest
- child does not express pride, or does it rarely
- child does not encourage others to join his activities
When it comes to older kids, we can notice:
- late speaking learning or specific way of using it
- atypical forms of playing, different from peers' play - especially difficutlies with role playing and make-believe games
- problems with participation in games with rules
- limited contacts with peers
- difficulties with determining needs and emotions of others
- difficulties in uderstanding differences in other people's thinking
What's noteworthy, is that whatever alarms parents - meeting specialist is the only mean of getting reliable knowledge. Searching for information on the internet only may lead to severe delay in taking actions beneficial for child and his environment.
How autistic person behaves?
There's no one, typical way of behaviour of people with autism. Exposing examples is harmful and leads to cementing stereotypical view on people with ASD. Every man is unique and can behave uniquely. It much depends on development characteristics, environment in which a child was risen and oneself's development uniqueness awareness.
What are types of autism?
We do not define "types" of autism. Nowadays, the term "autistic spectrum" is being used all over the world, to indicate that classifying people into specific categories is not an easy job. In clinical diagnostics we have several specific symptom groups, in example classic autism or asperger's syndrome. However, autistic person should always be viewed as individual being. Just as a human being.
What is Rett syndrome?
It is a genetically conditioned disorder within autistic spectrum, which affects mostly females. It always entails serious, conjugate disability, nevertheless not all children are intelectually impaired. Instead, they are characterised by, often really grave, motoric problems, nota bene, many of them encounter the moments in their lifes, when they lose skills. Also, Rett syndrome comes with epilepsy. In order to help people with Rett syndrome to develop, one has make them able to communicate - despite the lack or delayed progress of speech. To achieve this goal, we need use several nonverbal communication methods.
Can autism be cured?
There's no way to do so. Autistic spectrum is a development model, different from most common one in human population, characterized by, different than typical, perception of the world and way of thinking about the surroundings - in which non living objects and phenomena appear to be more important than people. Autism cannot be cured, because it is not an illness. Nevertheless, it is important to learn how to live with it. Just as every other person with development differences, people with ASD come across many particular challenges and it is worth to give them tools, to deal with those difficulties. One cannot remold autistic person into neurotypical. However, it is possible support his development and prevent derivative consequences, such as mental handicap or severe emotional disorders.
Does vaccination lead to autism?
Post-vaccinal autism theory has been disproved long time ago. Doctor, which started anti-vaccine hysteria, by claiming that vaccines are a cause of autism - has been deprived of the right to practice profession. Unfortunately, broad masses of people still spread this detrimental belief, benefiting on parents' fears, deceiving them into huge expenses, persuading, that autistic children have to be "detoxified from vaccines". What's worth to mention, is that every time doctor can decide about exemption or postponement of vaccination, when there are reasons of medical nature, such as: allergy, prematurity or severe health problems.
Is autism a disability?
Autism itself - is not a disability. Despite this, there's often a coincidence between autism and disabilities. There are ASD people with intelectual disabilities, Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy, visual and audial disorders, etc. Also, autism can result in disability. Difficulties with learning social interactions and relationships are the main cause of ASD people's derivative intelectual disability. It should be dealed with, but not by intense education, but by improving learning functions, spotaneous learnig from other people. And what's more - autistic people are in serious danger of severe emotional and psychological disorders. Depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. We mustn't ignore this, but we have to support ASD people to avoid these serious consequences. However, there are lots of autistic people, who's lives are not marked with disability. Much depends on closest environment - if we show respect and acceptation to differences, we do not make one believe he is impaired just because he's different - instead, we give him chance for happy and fulfilled life.
Do every autistic person develop in a same way?
Definitely - not. Autistic people can differ between each other very much. They all only share one, typical trait - difficulties in crucial spheres of development: communication, social relationships and interests or, in case of children, ways of play.
How to diagnose autistic spectrum disorders?
When it comes to confirm autistic spectrum disorder, every diagnostic process has to be led by special team of psychologists, pedagogues, doctor and (not necessarily) speech therapist. And it always requires following actions:
- development interview, since the very first days of life and even pregnancy
- diagnostic observation
- doctor's opinion
- meeting with specialists' team in order to discuss diagnosis
- written report from patient examination
What kind of therapy to choose?
We believe good therapy is one, that respects a man and his needs. We do not agree with the statement, that we need to do everything, to make ASD person "fitted to" society. Instead he or she should be helped with fighting his own difficulties, but with respect to his dignity and individuality. Regarding his personal predispositions and possibilities. ASD person's therapy should be also voluntary. If autist is inable to evaluate the situation and, what comes with that, make his own statement on the therapy proposal, it is the job of therapist, to support the family and point out the ways to build therapeutic nurturing environment. Actions taken within family as well as in the therapist's office must be concentrated on improving those cognitive functions, that allow a man to achieve better understanding himself and other people and secure autistic person's comfort coming from his own peculiar sensational needs.
Diet for autistic kid?
First to mention, there is no diet "curing" autism. If a child has digestive allergy - should be under the doctor's treatment. Allergist, gastroenetrologist, pediatrist are to help. They are the only ones, to have expertise on this domain and can, if necessary, give diagnosis and point dietary requirements. On the other hand, all claims about necessity of autism related diet - should be regarded as amazing stories (fantasy comic books from 30s' - translator's note) and fairy tales. They are just mischievious myth, created to convince desperate parents to buy useless services. Worth to mention is that ASD people would have problems with asking for help or expressing their physical suffering - due to thier communication difficulties. Hence they should under special medical observation. The way of showing feelings can be really uncommon in case of many of them. Whilst removing cause of suffering does not "cure autism", it improves comfort of their lives. Nevertheless - child or person - still is unable to do things, he couldn't do previously - to ask for help and support under painful circumstances. Under the medical reason diet can for example remove stomachache. However no diet can remove toothache. If the autistic person couldn't identify source of pain and was unable to point it out - no diet would help.