Infantile autism, along with Asperger’s syndrome and atypical autism, is part of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders *, a name that will probably be replaced by Autism Spectrum Disorders (TSA).
Childhood autism first described by Leo Kanner, a German born in Austria and emigrated to the USA, in 1943, and 5 years before (1938) Hans Asperger described at the University Hospital in Vienna – the characteristics of “autistic psychopathy”, known today as Asperger’s Syndrome, based on his casuistry.
All these disorders share communication deficiency, poor social interaction, poor or absent imagination, motor and verbal stereotypes.
The prevalence ranges from 4.5 to 13 per 10,000 children and the incidence is 1 to 166 children.
The sex ratio : about 3 to 1 for boys, but girls are more severely affected and have a lower IQ.
Childhood autism – etiology
There are several theories:
Childhood autism (AI) would have an innate cause – deficiency of emotional contact
Psychogenetic influences – cold emotional parents, detached, with a higher level of stress or “negative” mothers, hostile, who did not want their child
Biological – multiple causes that affect the central nervous system and which cause associated and psychic delay, epilepsy, the existence of congenital rubella, metabolic syndromes etc.
Genetic – chromosomes 15, 5 and X investigated, which could involved, autism being a disorder with polygenic disorder
Neuroanatomical – certain brain areas are more affected in children with autism: eg frontal, temporal lobes, cerebellum
Psychopharmacological – in the autism spectrum disorders (TSA) the activity of some chemical mediators (dopamine, serotonin and opioids) is increased
“Extreme male brain” – autism is an extreme form of the perfect type of male thinking, hormone-controlled testosterone
Children with autism are normal in appearance, often very beautiful. And the perimeter of the head is 10% larger than the normal age. Some children may have a non-harmonious face, discoloration areas or spots of the skin or (in the case of familial diseases called pharyngitis).
According to the American classifications – DSM IV TR and international – ICD – 10, autism is a disorder that begins before the age of 3 years, characterized by:
Deterioration of the quality of social relationships (eye-to-eye, face expression, gestures, body positions. Inability to start relationships with other adults or children, inability to understand the emotions and feelings of others. And lack of desire to share joy or distress, achievements, interests or troubles
Communication impairments – absence or delay of spoken language without alternative compensation modes. Inability to initiate or sustain a conversation, use of stereotype and repetitive language (immediate and delayed echolocation)
Often the language is absent or, if it exists, it does not have the role of communication. The expression is in the second or third person when referring to his own person. Sometimes repeating the question or words, phrases previously heard. Prozodia (sonority or intonation) particular, either “sung” or by an accentuated pedantry.
Stereotypical and repetitive behaviors: adherence to rituals without any function. Routines, mannerisms and stereotypical movements (eg fluttering or twisting of palms or fingers, looking at hands, melting, swinging, walking on tiptoes, caring for parts of objects, etc.)