AnAn International Education Foundation Hong Kong (Charity) Limited

Introduction to Autism

Autism is not a new disease. It has been here since ancient times. However, it only garnered mainstream medical community’s attention when US Professor Leo Kanner published “Autistic Disturbance of Affective Contact” describing 11 socially isolatedchildren who share an obsessive desire for sameness in 1943. This was the first description of what is known as autistic child today. Autism research now has over 70 years of history but still there is no clear physiological definition of the condition. Nevertheless, mainstream academics believe it was caused by damage or genetic defects to the central nervous system. Symptoms of autism includes mental retardation, epilepsy, hyperactive, withdrawn and mood disorder.

「自閉症」and「孤獨症」are both valid Chinese translation of “Autism”. The latter mainly used by mainland China’s medical and special education institutions. The former term is used instead by other societies using Chinese characters, for example, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malayasia, Singapore and Japan.

Autism’s was coined in 1912 by Swiss psychiatrist Paul Bleuler (1857-1939) from Latin autismus, from Ancient Greek αὐτός ‎(autós, “self”). This is used to describe autistic patients’ tendency to show interest only to themselves. In some regions, autism is also called Kanner’s Syndrome in honor of Professor Leo Kanner.

Nowadays, autism together with other childhood developmental disorders were grouped into Prevasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Under the name of PPD, there are five subtypes:

1. Autism Disorder
2. Asperger’s Disorder
3. Pervasive Develop-mental Disorders Not Otherwise Specified, PDD-NOS)
4. Rett’s Disorder
5. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

In other words, autistic patients has three cateogories of symptoms in
their daily lives:

1. Lack of social skills
2. Have difficulty to communicate and express themselves
3. Lack of imagination

Autism incidence is showing upward trend now. In March 2012, US CDC announced their latest autism incidence at 1 in 88 newborns. In terms of sex-specific incidence, the incidence is 1 in 55 boys and 1 in 245 girls.

Since individual cases of autism exhibit different symptoms and the causes remain unknown, the medical community still couldnot develop an effective treatment. Currently, physcians rely on Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) that includes cognitive education, visual education (TEACCH/PECS), sensory integration training, auditory integration training, play and culture intervention, language communication training and so on to reduce the seriousness of autistic symptoms.

Although autism can be considered as a disorder for life, autistic patients are more responsive to treatments when they are young. Therefore, an early diagnosis combined with appropriate education and continuous intervention can allow some patientsto achieve self sufficiency and personal independence, some might even manage to become a genius in a certain discipline.