Early childhood autism (Kanner autism) is one of the serious forms of autism. Children have a hard time making social contacts and relationships. Language development and behavior are also severely impaired. Symptoms of autism in children in these three areas usually occur before the age of three – they persist throughout their lives. Early childhood autism should be recognized as early as possible in order to support those affected with targeted measures.
Early childhood autism: description
Of the early childhood autism becomes after its Erstbeschreiber Leo Kanner also as Kanner’s autism or Kanner’s syndrome designated. It is one of the severe forms of autism spectrum disorder. The impairments exist in different areas of life. Three major areas need to be affected for early childhood autism:
- Social interaction
Autism in children is often noticeable as early as infancy. So the babies fall through their early otherness on. They actively avoid the eye contact, reject physical closeness and do not react to gestures and facial expressions. They do not understand feelings or misinterpret them. And so autistic children are more interested in objects than in humans. They rather play alone than with their peers or parents, with some selected toys or objects.
Also the natural language development suffers. Most of the time the children start talking very late – if at all. They speak or repeat sentences, but often do not understand the deeper meaning or connections.
The behavior shows typical abnormalities: The children perform stereotypical, always the same movements that they often repeat. They perform rituals that must not be interrupted. Autists have narrowly limited interests to whom they pay close attention. Not infrequently, extraordinary talents and talents come to light here – the children, for example, excel in the fine arts or mathematics. With such exceptional talent one speaks also of Savants (Savant syndrome, “island talent”, “scholars”). It is estimated that about half of all people with an island talent are autistic.
The individual symptoms of neonatal autism can be expressed in individually varying degrees of severity. This also applies to other forms of autism. Often, mental disabilities or diminished intelligence occur.
If all symptoms of early childhood autism occur in normal intelligence, experts say, “High-functioning autism “. He is in German-speaking countries Highly functional autism known. The development of language is greatly delayed in these children, which is why they are often first diagnosed with early childhood autism in early childhood. Even if they never learn to speak – people with high-functioning autism can still manage their everyday lives independently. Compared to Asperger’s syndrome, autistic symptoms are more pronounced in high-functioning autism. However, sufferers have better motor skills.
Facts about early childhood autism:
- 1 to 6 out of 1000 children are affected by early childhood autism.
- At around 70 percent, there is an additional mental disability.
- Boys are affected much more frequently – four boys come to an ill girl on average.
Early Childhood Autism: Causes
Deep developmental disorders, including neonatal autism, are mainly genetic. In twin studies, it was shown that in 70 to 90 percent of identical twins studied, autism occurred in both siblings. In dizygotic twins, however, only about 23 percent of both children were affected.
Some changes in certain gene segments are linked to the development of autism. For example, researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found in a study of more than 10,000 subjects that a single genetic variant was present in 65 percent of autistic participants. This gene segment between the genes CDH10 and CDH9 plays a role in the connection of nerve cells in the brain. About 15 percent of cases of autism may be due to the presence of this gene variant, the researchers suspect.
Also disturbances during the brain development as cause of the autism could be proven. Brain growth is faster in the womb and during the first years of development. The brain volume is larger than peers.
Early Childhood Autism: Symptoms
Early childhood autism is characterized by the fact that the children withdraw into their own world of thoughts. Concerned children avoid the contact to humans, also to parents and siblings or restrict him to the most necessary. Her interest is more focused on objects and things than on humans. If anything, they seek contact with others only to satisfy their needs or fulfill goals.
Especially parents often suffer from the supposed emotional coldness of their autistic children. The offspring does not make eye contact with the mother, hardly reacts to feelings such as happiness or anger and often shows no sympathy. The mimicking of a laugh, which is supposed to establish the relationship with the mother, can be completely absent or only become very late. Praise and attention of the parents seems to mean little to the little ones. The children are completely introspective and prefer to play alone than with their peers, to whom they do not maintain friendly contacts.
People with Kanner autism do not understand feelings and show no spontaneous emotions themselves. Expressing facial expressions such as anger, compassion, joy or sadness, they do not intuitively intuit, but derive them on the basis of acquired recognition characteristics (muscle movements, wrinkles). Not infrequently, they interpret sensations wrong because of this.
Disturbed language development
An early childhood autism affects many children in their language development. They can barely articulate or their wording is limited. Often, they chatter indefinitely or repeating a sentence over and over again. Sometimes they form new words or say “you” when they mean “me”. When speaking autistic people support what has been said only to a small extent with a suitable facial expressions and gestures. Also, the speech melody is often monotone without ups and downs, which sounds robotic.
Autistic children repeat certain behaviors or sentences. Such repetitive actions – stereotypes called – occur in different areas. The game with rotating wheels, for example, always follows the same pattern, objects are collected excessively and arranged according to their size. When playing, the children often just pick out a very specific detail of the toy and deal intensively with it. Their game follows a stereotypical pattern and appears very unimaginative. When other people interrupt rituals, children often experience extreme anxiety and restlessness. Changes cause anxiety to children with autism and should be slow.
About 70 percent of children with early childhood autism have mental retardation with mental retardation. This can be determined with age-appropriate intelligence tests. Extraordinary island talentsFor example, a photographic memory or a mathematical genius are atypical for early childhood autism. Such “Savants“There are more cases of patients with Asperger’s syndrome, but early childhood autism causes some children to be over-interested in certain things, such as geometric shapes.
The Kanner’s syndrome is often accompanied by other different symptoms. So violent, anxious reactions to changes are not uncommon. The children often refuse to wear certain clothes or they laugh and giggle for no apparent reason. Sometimes they misjudge everyday dangers like car traffic. Self-injurious behavior can also occur in autistic children. Sleep disorders and eating disorders are also common in infants.
Early Childhood Autism: Therapy
Autism can not yet be treated causally. The symptoms persist for a lifetime, but soften slightly over the years. The main goal of a therapy is to improve the social and communication skills of the children and to support the parents. The treatment is most successful when she as early as possible starts and lasts for a longer period of time.
Therapy areas of focus
Early childhood autism can be treated in a family environment, semi-stationary or full-time. Experts prefer the semi-inpatient approach – a mix of home and specialized care therapies. The holistic concept supports and develops the existing abilities of the child. The environment of the child is also included in the therapy. So the autistic child can train in the group, with the family and other children.
- Social competence and communication: In the program of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and of the supplemented Verbal Behavior (VB) The child’s social skills and language are trained. The approach was taken by Ivar Lovaas developed.
- Independence: The concept is used TEACCH – Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children, Thus, people with early childhood autism learn to get along better in everyday life and to better understand the environment.
- Self-control and theory of mind: These therapy programs try to make the child or adolescent as aware as possible of differences between their own thoughts and the environment.
- Language ability: An early language training (speech therapy) can explain the social meaning of linguistic elements and promote language understanding as well as active language.
- Family is important:Parents and family play a central role in the treatment of children with early childhood autism. Detailed counseling and parenting or family therapy are therefore very important to help the children outside of the training.
- Other therapies, which are not scientifically proven, show good results in children with the Kanner syndrome and are suitable as supportive therapy measures. These include music and horseback riding or swimming with dolphins.
- drugs: Autism spectrum disorders often occur with concomitant diseases that complicate the behavioral therapy. This can help with the onset of epilepsy or depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) perform well when children perform repetitive movements. However, since people with autism are particularly sensitive to medication, the side effects can be more severe. In addition, the intake of these drugs should only support behavioral therapies, but not replace them.
There are other forms of therapy, but they are very controversial. This includes, for example, the psychodynamic, revealing therapy – here is searched for pathogenic educational influences and lack of parent-child relationship, which leads to blame. Also, the holding therapy is not undisputed – the detention of the child should break its resistance.
Early Childhood Autism – Prognosis
Early childhood autism persists throughout life – so far there has not been a cure. With the help of intensive therapy concepts, however, individual symptoms can be controlled and new self-taught abilities can be achieved. Early childhood symptoms may be associated with aging in some individuals, but in adulthood many people may experience increased aggressiveness towards themselves and others.
The behavioral therapies are very time-consuming and require continuous training – even in a family environment. Initial successes are slow to set. This is due to the severity of the disease. On the other hand, people with Autimus spectrum disorders generally have little motivation to perform the treatment.
Since people with early childhood autism often additionally suffer from a mental disability, they are dependent all their life on a more or less large degree of care.