Diagnosis And Therapy Of Autism

Table of contents:

Diagnosis And Therapy Of Autism
Diagnosis And Therapy Of Autism

Video: Diagnosis And Therapy Of Autism

Video: Diagnosis And Therapy Of Autism
Video: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment 2023, December


The autism syndrome is mainly characterized by a disorder in the processing of perception. Environmental stimuli for the eyes, ears or the sense of touch cause those affected severe problems - they are literally "overwhelmed" by sensory impressions. Subsequently, there are difficulties in social interaction. In the last few years medical and therapeutic approaches have moved away from the concept of disability in autism and towards a definition of a perceptual disorder / “autistic perception”.


  • Continue reading
  • more on the subject
  • Advice, downloads & tools
  • Autism: what is it?
  • Features of an autistic disorder
  • Early Childhood Or Atypical Autism?
  • Influences on the course
  • Therapeutic goals
  • Specific autism therapy
  • Other therapy options
  • Tips for parents of autistic children

Autism: what is it?

Autism is viewed as a pervasive childhood developmental disorder. This exists from birth and occurs in the first few years of life. The first thing you notice is that the parent-child relationship and communication is impaired. In addition, there are cognitive and motor impairments as well as emotional disorders. How it came about is still largely unclear. Several factors could work together. Genetic and neurophysiological causes are considered likely. Environmental influences influence the course.

Features of an autistic disorder

Autism is different in every child and changes in the course of development. The spectrum ranges from severe disabilities to barely noticeable behavior. A normal or gifted gift is possible, but also a mental impairment. Above all, abnormalities appear in social behavior. It is difficult for the child to express themselves verbally or non-verbally (e.g. through gestures or facial expressions). Interest is limited to a few activities or games, often stereotypical behavior (which occurs over and over again).

In infancy and toddler age, autism manifests itself, for example, through sleep problems, lack of initiative, reduced imitation behavior or impaired food intake. Affected children react extremely sensitively to environmental influences in some cases, the first attempts to speak and speak are missing or delayed. The little ones often start walking later. Aggression, hyperactivity and repetitive, stereotyped behavior can occur in preschool age. Symptoms often subside a little after school age.

In many cases, comorbidities such as epilepsy, depression, fears, compulsions or eating and sleeping disorders appear.

Early Childhood Or Atypical Autism?

At the beginning of a diagnostic work-up there is a precise survey of the medical history (anamnesis) as well as a detailed discussion with the caregivers. Behavioral observation and psychological examinations are used to determine abnormalities in perception, social interaction, language, intelligence or motor skills. A neurological / psychiatric and physical examination is also necessary. Further clarifications will be initiated as required. There are several therapy programs designed for autism. In order to differentiate autism from other disorders (e.g. mental retardation, mutism, attachment disorders), a diagnosis by specialist clinical psychologists and specialists in child psychiatry or specialists with further training in child psychiatry is required. Psychotherapists can also be involved in the diagnosis. Clarification in a development clinic is helpful.

According to ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases), autism is one of the most profound developmental disorders. A distinction is made between:

  • Early childhood autism: a pervasive developmental disorder that occurs before the age of three. Social behavior and communication have changed. Repetitive, stereotypical (always recurring) behavior patterns show. Other symptoms can be anxiety, increased aggression and difficulty sleeping.
  • Atypical autism: The difference to autism in early childhood lies in the age of onset or in the fact that the above diagnostic criteria do not fully apply. This form particularly affects children with severe developmental retardation with impaired speech development.
  • Asperger's Syndrome: The disorder differs from early childhood autism mainly in the lack of general developmental delay or lack of developmental lag in language and cognitive development. For more information, see Asperger's Syndrome: What is it?

Influences on the course

Several factors play a role in the successful treatment of an affected child. If those affected develop good language skills by the age of five, this means a favorable prognosis. Any physical complaints (e.g. epilepsy) as well as the design of the social and school environment influence the course and the alleviation of the disorder.

Many autism sufferers require long-term care or support.

Therapeutic goals

The therapy is individually tailored to the symptoms and needs of the child. The treatment is primarily aimed at:

  • Improvement of communication (also through symbol or sign language);
  • Promotion of the individual development areas;
  • Promotion of gaming behavior;
  • Training of behavior (especially social behavior and targeted actions).

The caregivers as well as the kindergarten and teaching staff are included in the therapy. In most cases, children with autism can be well supported within the framework of integrated kindergartens or classes.

Specific autism therapy

There are several therapy programs designed specifically for autism. One of the best known is the so-called TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children) program. It consists of:

  • funding-oriented diagnostics,
  • Support in school lessons / in vocational training,
  • Training of caregivers,
  • Promoting social skills,
  • Communication training as well
  • Transfer of skills for a suitable leisure time.

Structuring everyday life is also very helpful for those affected and an important tool for shaping life.

For many autism therapy programs, learning theory methods represent an essential pillar. Important behavior therapy programs in the autism area are the techniques of the so-called discrete learning format and modern applied behavior analysis (ABA). The goals here are to promote language understanding and expression, to increase awareness of social impressions, to develop imitation behavior, to learn preschool skills and to achieve independence in performing everyday activities.

Other therapy options

Other forms of treatment for autism include specific communication training, individual or group psychotherapy (with a focus on promoting social skills), play groups, early intervention, speech therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Music therapy can also be used. A drug is used in the case of accompanying psychological abnormalities or physical illnesses.

Tips for parents of autistic children

According to DGKJP (German Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry), the following behavioral measures have proven effective when dealing with autistic children:

  • Trying to accept the condition and avoid blame;
  • be well informed and networked (e.g. with other parents, special institutions);
  • if necessary, seek professional help for yourself in order to cope better with the situation (e.g. psychological counseling or psychotherapy, self-help groups);
  • be open to support from others (relatives, friends or professional helpers);
  • promote the child without asking too much of him;
  • stay realistic - do not expect too high a therapeutic success;
  • expect family problems and accordingly take advice (e.g. family counseling);
  • Take care of yourself: maintain vital needs, do not neglect your own interests completely, maintain social contacts.

Parents or caregivers can also inform other people in their environment about autism in order to promote understanding.

You can find contact points (e.g. via our doctor search) under Services.