Autism spectrum disorders are neurological disorders that are usually detected during the first three years of life. Autism affects the brain’s normal development in the areas of social interaction and communication.
Children and adults with autism regularly have difficulties in the following areas:
- verbal and non-verbal communication
- social interaction
- developing leisure and creative activities
They have an impaired ability to communicate with others and establish contacts in the outside world. In certain cases, aggressive and/or self-injurious behaviour can be observed.
People with autism may make repetitive body movements (flapping hands, body rocking) and may have unusual reactions towards others or become attached to objects. They may resist change in certain routine activities.
They may also be hyposensitive or hypersensitive with regard to all five senses : sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.
Several related disorders are grouped together under the term Autism Spectrum Disorders, a generic term for a group of disorders that are characterised by abnormalities in various aspects of development.
It should be added that many people with autism also suffer from other conditions that are said to be related – such as intellectual disability, epilepsy, or digestive disorders – and that even if there is no cure, significant progress can be made in helping them live with their disability.
Certain theories try to explain the difficulties (at least in part) and other important characteristics of the mental state of people with autism :
- a deficit in the Theory of Mind
- executive function deficiency
- central coherence weakness
- sensory hypo- or hypersensitivity
- context blindness