What is autism?
Children with an autistic spectrum disorder are children who show a different, atypical development and their own relationship to the world, characterised by particular sensory and perceptual aspects.
All of which leads them to have a tendency towards isolation and behaviour that can seem strange, such as lining up objects, walking on tiptoe, spinning or flapping (arm movements) or a way of looking at objects sideways and in detail. They detest change. They often have intense interests that can be restrictive and very marked (e.g. dinosaurs, planets, insects, etc.) They often have a prodigious memory for dates, figures, bus numbers, etc. In most cases these children with an autistic spectrum disorder are late in developing language and when it does emerge it can immediately be complex and combined with very fast reading. Some are able to learn foreign languages easily by themselves. The origin is multifactoral but heritability can be important even if no gene has been identified.
Today, autism is no longer considered to be a handicap but rather a difference with its strengths and weaknesses. If properly understood and supported, children with autism can show some surprising development often with paradoxical skills. This is why early detection is useful and essential. Once the child psychiatrist or neuropaediatrician has made the diagnosis, the multidisciplinary team at the Children's Hospital assists the parents in understanding their child's functioning, identifying his or her particularities and helps them support their child's specific development.. Throughout the care pathway, tools are made available to them to enter into contact with their child, adjust his or her environment and identify his or her sensibility, interests and strengths. The team also supports the parents and child in interactions with the school, teachers and educational teams so that the levers can be activated to welcome the child in accordance with his or her specific needs. We are a centre for diagnosis, assessment and support with the particularity of trying insofar as is possible to maintain the child or young person with autism in his or her so-called normal environment where they can evolve. In the near future we will be cooperating with the House of Autism in Brussels.
Advice to parents
If your child shows developmental particularities, it is essential to discuss this with our paediatrician, the ONE [Office of Births and Childhood] or your family doctor. An early diagnosis can enable your child to develop in an appropriate and adapted environment while providing you with a better understanding of your child's developmental particularities. Please note: before requesting an appointment any possibility of a hearing disorder must be ruled out.
The Autism Research Centre also participates in several clinical research projects, in neuroimaging, genetics and, with the aid of CAP48, on care procedures.