Autism, here are the alarm bells

Small signs that sometimes go unnoticed. The opinion of a specialist is essential.

Small signs that sometimes go unnoticed. The child neuropsychiatrist Alberto Ottolina: «Early diagnosis is fundamental».

A child who responds with a smile to the gestures and voice of his mother or who looks at the adult indicating an object that arouses his interest.

These are situations so common that you hardly notice them. But for some children these manifestations are not there.

Cases where a particular behavior could be a sign of an autism problem.

What is it about? Autistic disorders are a collection of neurodevelopmental disorders.

That is, they are linked to an irregular maturation in the brain. A problem that begins before birth.

Autism is a highly variable disorder

The disorder occurs in a very variable way from case to case, but in general it manifests itself in the alteration of communication and interaction with others. The autistic child has repetitive behaviors and interests restricted to a limited field.

Normally a child starts communicating very early. The little one tends to interact with the environment that surrounds him from the earliest stages of his development.

For example, the first smiles, the very first gestures such as pointing, which occurs between the first and second year of life. While the first word combinations usually start between 12 and 18 months.

How then to recognize the signs that could reveal a form of autism? Explains Alberto Ottolina, director of the Complex Structure of Neuropsychiatry of Infancy and Adolescence of the ASST Fatebenefratelli – Sacco of Milan: «At two – three years of age the child does not respond when he is called by name. It does not correspond to the look. He tends to isolate himself, does not play with peers and family members, but prefers to play alone. He is not interested in symbolic or exchange games, such as throwing back a ball that is thrown at him, or playing cuckoo or hide and seek, or the game of pretending to ….. Has repetitive, limited interests (for example putting row the toy cars); often presents stereotyped motor mannerisms (clapping or wringing hands, walking on tiptoes, etc.) ».

And when he smiles, he does it for no particular reason. «His is not a“ social ”smile to communicate with those close to him» continues the expert «usually a child points with his finger at an object he wants and then looks towards the adult. The child with autism takes the adult by the hand and leads him to the object he wants. There is no communicative exchange. Autistic children very often have language impairment (they do not develop communicative language which is not necessarily made up of words alone). A phenomenon different from the child who delays in starting to speak, but is nevertheless able to communicate with gestures and mimicry ».

It is not possible to understand on the fly whether certain manifestations are signs of an autistic disorder.

If in doubt, it is best to consult a specialist

If a parent has any doubts, it is important that they consult a child neuropsychiatrist. Ottolini clarifies: «All these signals must be contextualized by a specialist. It is up to the neuropsychiatrist to establish the diagnostic relevance of the various symptoms; the diagnosis of autism must in any case be confirmed using specific tests, tests that also allow us to define the severity of this disorder ».

The causes of autism are not yet known. Probably several factors contribute and certainly the genetic component is relevant; some theses also refer to organ damage that would occur in the developmental stages of the nervous system during pregnancy.

The expert concludes: «In autism, whether it is mild or severe, an early diagnosis is essential to promptly initiate appropriate treatment. The children and their families must then be accompanied and supported throughout their lives, helping these children to face the daily challenges of life, supporting them to reach the highest level of autonomy possible “.

by Abdullah Sam
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