The word autism comes from a Greek word „autos“ which means „alone” and it is automatically linked to unsociability and introversion. Autism is a lifelong pervasive neuro-developmental disorder and is also known as Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
It is a congenital difference in brain development and function that makes the individual think and behave differently than is usual for their peers. As a result of these differences the person processes incoming information in a different way than we do and can react strangely in common situations.
The symptoms are very diverse, there are no two people with ASD with identical profile. Nevertheless, the impairment impacts three main domains – communication, social interaction and imagination.
Despite the common belief connected to the picture of autism in media there is no model case of a person with autism. A highly intelligent person can be diagnosed with ASD as well as someone with mental retardation. While some people with autism can be unsociable, others enjoy company very much. Some need special education and constant assistance and others live completely independently and have their own families.
Statistics and estimations indicate that there are around 100 000 – 200 000 people with ASD in Czech Republic and some people suggest even higher numbers.
Currently the awareness of both general and expert public about autism is rising as well as the early and correct diagnostics. There are many different approaches to the therapy of autism and while some of them are evidence-based and help to develop people in many ways, others are purely experimental and potentially dangerous. Choosing the correct approach requires critical thinking and constant evaluation. There is no minimum age limit for an intervention and the earlier it starts the better the potential results can be due to the flexibility of our brain. We can observe an atypical behaviors and early warning signs and even though they don´t necessarily have to be symptoms of autism, it is not recommended to wait until the age of 3 for an official diagnosis. It is good to start working with a child and develop their social and communication skills immediately when we have a suspicion something might be wrong.
Currently there is no „cure“ for autism which does not mean there is nothing we can do to help individuals with autism develop to their full potential without causing them harm. There is no magic pill to make a difference and behind each progress there is a lot of effort.