Can autism be acquired

After theses on the psychogenesis of autistic disorders dominated for a long time, research into biological causes has been intensified in recent years. The participation and interaction of the following factors in particular is discussed:

It is very likely that brain damage and brain dysfunction play a leading role. Corresponding indications can be found in around 60% of autistic children, with the results differing with regard to the time of origin, location and severity of the disorder. Birth complications such as lack of oxygen during childbirth are relatively common. Even in infancy, autistic children show neurobiological peculiarities such as disorders of the sleep-wake rhythm, eating disorders, abnormal crying, disorders of the excretory functions, overexcitability, etc.

Family and twin studies speak for the importance of genetic factors. In this context, it is also discussed whether the autistic disorder as such or its components are inherited, such as dispositional factors of the cognitive, linguistic or emotional disorders. Molecular genetic studies have already made certain gene locations that can be decisive for the cause of early childhood autism likely. This shows that early childhood autism must be viewed as a polygenic disorder (involvement of several genes).

There are findings on biochemical peculiarities, but these are still inconsistent and therefore difficult to assess.

The neurobiological peculiarities that existed from birth speak against the long-standing central importance of disturbances in emotional development as a result of a disturbed parent-child relationship - e.g. due to an unconscious rejection by the parents. The parents of autistic children do not differ in their personality or behavior from parents of healthy or, for example, mentally handicapped children. Rather, the findings indicate that the child's disorders have an inverse effect on the parent-child relationship.

There always seems to be a disturbance in the processing of perception or information, the exact nature and cause of which, however, are still largely unknown. Such a deficit affects the environmental experience and the relationship to oneself differently and more seriously than e.g. the total loss of a sensory area. The autistic child does not understand a large part of the internal and external stimuli, especially the very complex information in the affective and social area, and feels like in a strange, chaotic world. It protects itself against these excessive demands on the one hand passively through selective absorption of environmental stimuli and on the other hand actively maintains its own manageable world through stereotypical behavior, for example. Changes in one's environment repeatedly create fear and pose problems that are difficult to solve. Spontaneous learning and development processes as in healthy children hardly take place.


Despite a wide range of individual results, research into the causes has not yet led to generally binding results. Overall, the findings point to a combination of several factors in the development of autistic disorders. Autism is seen as a predominantly behavioral syndrome with a variety of underlying causes that are not yet adequately known in detail. A biological or organic brain basis is to be assumed as the primary cause, while environmental influences are important for the course.