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What is autism?

What is autism?

What is autism?

What are the symptoms of autism? Have the causes of autism been identified? Does the autism spectrum permanently alter the functioning of the child? These questions are asked repeatedly with respect to autism. They are usually spawned by concern of the parents whose child begins to behave strangely. It is a good idea to get to know the basic facts concerning autism spectrum disorders.

Autism is an atypical mode of human development, with different methods of communicating, building relations, expressing emotions and learning and different patterns of behaviour. Every person with autism is an individual, and the features listed above may appear with varying intensity.

Autism is currently diagnosed in Poland in 1 out of 100 children.


The symptoms of autism largely concern the area of communication. A child with autism may have problems with establishing contact and normal conversations with others.

Many children with autism suffer from speech retardation or do not speak at all. They frequently do not look other people in the eye and do not respond to their name. They may have significant difficulties with understanding the intentions and behaviours of the people closest to them. Autism in children may also manifest as problems with expressing emotions and understanding inner experiences. At first glance, it may seem that autistic people do not enjoy contact with people, but in reality they usually want to build friendly relations, which, however, is difficult because they do not have the skills required to do so.

Symptoms of autism

The first signals of autism in a child can be noticed already before the age of 3. This the time when the parents observe that their child is developing differently from others. However, sometimes, the first distressing symptoms appear already in infancy.

What signals should be cause for concern?

The characteristic symptoms that could predispose to autism spectrum disorders include not making eye contact and lack of interest in the presence of other people. This is frequently reported by the parents as one of the first distressing behaviours observed in the child.

Children with autism frequently do not follow the objects shown to them with their eyes and do not react to attempts at initiating play, and they use their toys in a non-standard fashion (e.g. arranging toys into lines, looking at components of an object, tapping objects or waving them around). Autism in children may also manifest as the inability to interact with others. The child does not wave bye-bye and does not send kisses.

It has significant problems with imitating other people. A frequent symptom that may suggest autism is the situation where children starts taking much later than their peers. There are also children who start speaking their first words but then stop to communicate.

First signs of autism

Your child:

    • Does not speak or has problems with speaking
    • Does not enter into relations and interactions with other people
    • Plays and behaves in the stereotypical fashion (e.g., waving hands, playing with atypical objects, arranging toys into long rows).
    • Does not make eye contact
    • Does not imitate
    • Does not follow simple instructions (sit down, give)
    • Has problems with focusing

If you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms in your children, request a referral to a diagnostic facility or go to a private clinic.

Autism spectrum

Autism is described as a spectrum of disorders because there is no single pattern of behaviour characterising all persons with autism. They may, in fact, be radically different despite the same diagnosis.

This means that autism may vary greatly, from mild symptoms to very intense ones, making it difficult to function in all aspects of life.

If we observe any of the indicated signals, we should consult a suitable specialist. The symptoms are not proof of autism, which is why all questions should be consulted as soon as possible.

Autism is not a disease, it is a developmental disorder. It accompanies the individual throughout life. Consequently, it cannot be cured. However, persons with the autism spectrum may function better with suitable therapy.


Self-stimulation very frequently accompanies children with autism. Such behaviours are intended by the child to provide sensory stimuli. During self-stimulation, the child focuses maximum attention on such stimuli and is usually unable to concentrate of processing other stimuli from the world around them.

Such behaviours may stimulate any of the five senses. Examples of such self-stimulation include jumping up, waving hands, hitting a table, rhythmically swaying in various directions or walking in a circle.

Self-stimulation may be present continuously or appear only in specific moments, e.g. when the child is bored, worried or stressed.

Living according to specific patterns

Persons with autism very frequently develop their own patterns of behaviour in specific situations. When something changes, when the previously developed pattern of behaviour cannot be followed, the child feels great distress.

Patterns of behaviours frequently resemble rituals that accompany everyday situations, such as going shopping, going to school or even asking the same question over and over. A child with autism may expect the same answer every time the question is asked, which is usually impossible during a conversation.

Patterns of behaviour very frequently enable autistic people to find satisfaction in typical everyday activities, e.g. pouring the same amount of a drink into the glass or always dressing in the same order.

Children with autism are also strongly attached to the schedule of their day, which gives them a sense of peace and security if everything happens as planned. They will then place strong emphasis on making sure that every activity takes place at exactly the right time, so that all of such activities can be completed.

Autism in adults

Autism is usually diagnosed early in life, but there are situations where the diagnosis is not made until the person is an adult. Adults are diagnosed using the tools and diagnostic instruments suitable for the age of the particular person. Particular attention is also paid to the way such persons function in everyday life.

Similarly to children with autism, autistic adults may have difficulty with interpersonal relations or communication of verbal messages, or they may have a dislike of changes.

Adults whose autism was diagnosed early may acquire the skills needed to help them become independent, work and function in the society through therapeutic measures.

Autism affects your entire life. That is why acceptance and understanding are so critical. Because together we can build a better world for autistic people!

You can help as well. Already 1 in 100 kids has autism. Change their life for the better. Donate