Childhood autism, Together with Asperger's syndrome and atypical autism, is part of Pervasive disorders developre, a name that will probably be replaced by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
All these disorders have in common the communication deficit, the deficient social interaction, the poor or absent imagination, the motor and verbal stereotypes.
The prevalence varies between 4.5 and 13 per 10,000 children and the incidence is 1 in 166 children.
The sex rate is about 3 to 1 for boys, but girls are much more severely affected and have a lower IQ.
Children with autism are normal in physical appearance, often very beautiful, and the skull perimeter is 10 % larger than normal in age. Some children may have a disharmonious face, discoloration areas or spots on the skin or (in the case of family diseases called phantomatosis).
According to the American classifications - DSM IV TR and international - ICD - 10, autism is a disorder that begins before the age of 3, characterized by:
- deterioration of the quality of social relationships (looking into each other's eyes, facial expressions, gestures, body positions, inability to start relationships with other adults or children, inability to understand the emotions and feelings of others, lack of desire to share joy or trouble, achievements, interests or troubles
- communication impairments - absence or delay of spoken language without alternative modes of compensation, inability to initiate or sustain a conversation, use of stereotypical and repetitive language (immediate and delayed echolalia)
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 it refers to one's own person, sometimes repeating the question or words, phrases heard before. The prosody (sonority or intonation) is particular, either "sung" or by an accentuated pedantry
- stereotypical and repetitive behaviors: adherence to rituals without any function, routines, mannerisms and stereotypical movements (eg waving or twisting palms or fingers, looking at hands, bumping, rocking, walking on tiptoes, concern for parts of objects, etc.)
Children with autism cannot tolerate any change, and activities are limited. They seem "in their world", they do not feel the need to be caressed and caressed, they do not look the interlocutor in the eye, they do not seem to hear if they are shouted, they do not notice if parts of objects, seem indifferent to everything around.
Intellectual development - about 75 % of those with autism have a mental deficit, difficulty writing by hand.
Additional features of children with autism: indifference to pain, cold sensation, unusual sensitivity to odors, whimsical appetite, urinary control disorders, sleep, anxiety (fear) especially at loud noises, places, unprecedented situations, panic at hugs or touch, fascination with rotating objects or toys, mechanisms, cars.