What are the three stages of autism
The symptoms of a early childhood autism usually occur before the age of three. The developmental disorder manifests itself in the affected person in three main characteristics:
- his social skills are impaired
- his language and communication are impaired
- his behavior is stereotypical and repetitive
Low social skills
Many autistic people have problems communicating with other people. This often becomes apparent in infancy, when the autistic child avoids eye contact with the parents, does not imitate their facial expressions, such as a smile, and does not develop a close bond with them.
Babies usually seek eye contact and physical closeness to their mother in order to feel safe and secure. Autistic children also often do not react to other stimuli from their environment, they appear listless and absent. Parents therefore often initially assume that their baby is blind or deaf.
Autistic children also prefer to play alone, their fellow human beings usually only notice them when it comes to satisfying needs such as hunger or thirst.
Even at a later age, autistic people have great problems establishing and maintaining eye contact with other people. They also often find physical contact uncomfortable, do not want to be touched and can react fearfully or aggressively (however, there are also autistic people who want to hug people who know them well; however, the contact is mostly about the autistic person, about physical closeness control yourself).
For some, the disorder is so pronounced that they are hardly or not able to enter into friendly relationships.
Autistic people also find it difficult to interpret the gestures and facial expressions of other people, to correctly interpret their feelings and to empathize with them. Often they do not respond appropriately. They are also poor at expressing their own feelings. Sometimes they suddenly start giggling or laughing when there is no apparent reason.
Autistic people can also be recognized by the fact that they show hardly any spontaneous emotions. They also often have problems recognizing people's faces. It happens that they do not recognize neighbors on the street who have lived next door for years.
Impaired communication and language
Language development is often slower in autistic children than in non-autistic children of the same age. They often have a poor understanding of language, their vocabulary is limited and they are often unable to use terms flexibly.
They are not able to use linguistic sub-contexts such as irony or “reading between the lines” and neither do they understand this with others. you take What is said is always very literal.
As they also have great difficulty understanding social interaction rules as a result (for example, when a bad tasting meal is politely said that it is delicious), they often say honestly and directly what they think and are amazed and unsettled when this offends others.
In addition, they usually do not know how to start and end a conversation, small talk is a tremendous stress for an autistic person.
Since their speech melody is not very pronounced, they hardly change pitch or volume and they do not use non-verbal communication such as a smile, winking or raised eyebrows to emphasize things when speaking, they usually appear monotonous when speaking.
Children with early childhood autism have great problems learning normal language. Some toddlers can't even say “mom” or “dad”. When they speak, they can sometimes just string a few words together or repeat words and sentences (experts call this "echolalia"). Example: The mother asks: "Are you hungry" ?, The child says: "Are you hungry?"
It is different for people with Asperger's Syndrome, their language skills are often quite highly developed. However, they also work often mechanical when talking.
Stereotypical and repetitive behaviors
Another sign of autism is that those affected have a limited behavior pattern and often perform everyday actions in a rigid, stereotypical and repetitive manner. Such stereotypical actions give them a feeling of security and also serve to cope with stress. Most autistic people do not have spontaneity and creativity.
When an autistic child plays, it often seems unimaginative and is usually always the same. In addition, it does not imitate personal experiences and, unlike its peers, does not imitate the behavior of adults.
Autistic people can spend hours on topics that interest them (e.g. timetables), or concentrate intensively on specific details of things (such as how an object smells, tastes or feels) and, for example, listen to the noises of a radiator or the Carefully examine the structure of the tiles in the bathroom. It can also happen that an autistic person repeats a sound (such as a popping sound).
High sensitivity and freaking out
Some autistic people perceive noises very intensely. For example, if you stand on a busy street or hear a booming vacuum cleaner at home, you can cover your ears and start screaming.
Their sense of touch can also perceive stimuli more strongly, as a result of which those affected perceive certain items of clothing as annoying ("scratchy", "rough") on the skin and do not want to wear them. It can also happen that you find the consistency of some dishes unpleasant and therefore only consume certain foods. Some sufferers only eat this and otherwise refuse to eat.
In addition, they cannot tolerate deviations from their usual daily routine; routine is extremely important for them in all areas of life. If there are changes in everyday processes or in things in their personal environment, it is very stressful for them and they can react very emotionally.
If, for example, they are prevented from eating at the usual time, if they are supposed to walk a different route to school or if furniture has been moved at home, this can completely upset them, they can become afraid and panic. To calm themselves down, they usually perform certain repetitive (repetitive) actions, such as rocking the upper body back and forth, walking in circles, or jumping up and down.
Experts refer to this as Stimming. If the calming down does not succeed or if the stress is too overwhelming, the person affected can get screaming attacks (called "meltdowns").
Autistic people can also have such freaks when they experience a sensory overload (called "overload"), for example from a loud radio, a ride on the subway or an unfamiliar meal in a full restaurant. Or sometimes out of frustration when they hear a “no” or are supposed to do something they don't want.
Those affected scream loudly, can throw objects, hit their head on the wall, or bite each other to mask other overwhelming stimuli.
Other malfunctions that can occur
In addition, autistic people often experience other psychological problems, such as anxiety disorders (including phobias), depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, tic disorder, sleep problems, eating disorders, and self-harming and self-harming behavior.
These can exacerbate the autistic symptoms. Sometimes the comorbidities also cover up an existing autism spectrum disorder, then the person affected is treated for an anxiety disorder, but the autism on which it is based is not recognized. When making a diagnosis, the doctor must therefore check which diseases are present in order to be able to treat the patient correctly.
If people have behaviors that can occur in autistic people, such as significant difficulties in communicating with others or a tendency to be introverted, but the symptoms are so weak that they do not meet the diagnostic criteria and do not interfere with the person's everyday life, speak is popularly referred to as "autistic traits". The term "autistic traits" describes the fringes of autism, but it is not a diagnosis.
The criteria to differentiate between autistic traits and a developmental disorder are, however, vague. While one psychologist only finds autistic traits in a person, another interprets this perhaps as Asperger's syndrome.
Some autistic people (mostly people with Asperger syndrome) also suffer from Savant syndrome. This means that they have an extraordinary talent in a special area: a so-called island talent. The film “Rainman” (USA, 1988), for example, shows an autistic person with such an island talent.
Savants, for example, have a photographic memory, can learn a foreign language in just one week, only need to hear a piece of classical music once and can then play it perfectly, are arithmetic geniuses or so-called "calendar calculators" that can tell the exact day of the week for any date.
Those affected invest a lot of energy and time in this special talent area and can give long lectures about it. On the other hand, they are usually less interested in other topics.
Those affected have an above-average IQ in this particular area, but otherwise their IQ can be low (below the value of 70). But it can also happen that the autistic person generally has a normal or above-average intelligence quotient.
To this day, researchers do not know what causes Savant Syndrome and how these extraordinary abilities develop.
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