Are people with autism uncoordinated

Autism (autism spectrum disorder)

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Written by Wiebke Posmyk • Medical editor
Checked by Dr. med. Bernhard Riecke • Psychiatrist and psychotherapist

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Autism has many forms. The so-called autism spectrum disorders include, for example, early childhood autism (Kanner syndrome) or Asperger's syndrome. While some autistic people are able to lead a largely normal life, others are dependent on support for the rest of their lives.

Definition: what is autism and what is an autism spectrum disorder?

Autism (Greek:cars = self;ismos = State) is one of theprofound developmental disorders. Human development is severely impaired in various areas.

The spectrum of autistic disorders is broad and it is not always easy to differentiate between individual forms. Scientists therefore use the generic term to summarize the different characteristics and degrees of severity of the individual forms of autismAutism Spectrum Disorder (ASS) together.

The range of possible disturbances is indeed very large. Still, there are some characteristics that all autistic people have in common. An autistic

  • has difficulty entering into relationships with other people,
  • is impaired in his language development and communication and
  • shows repetitive (stereotypical) behavior patterns and restricted activities / interests.


Forms of autism

Doctors distinguish several forms of autism. Autism Spectrum Disorders include:

  • Early childhood autism (so-called Kanner syndrome):When people talk about autism, they usually mean early childhood autism.Early childhood The disorder is called as it is alwaysbefore the age of 3 makes noticeable. Roughly 2 to 5 in 10,000 children have early childhood autism, although the frequency of this varies. Boys are 3 to 4 times more likely to be affected than girls.
  • Asperger syndromeIn this form of autism, which is usually only noticeable in school age, are the autistic traitsmilder than in early childhood autism. Asperger's autistic people are predominantly boys. About 3 in 10,000 children suffer from it.
  • atypical autism:This disorder is largely similar to, but contrasts with, early childhood autismlater one and / or kick itnot all typical key characteristics of early childhood autism.

Another autism spectrum disorder is thisRett Syndrome. It affects almost exclusivelygirl. The first symptoms appear between the ages of 6 months and 4 years. The normal development of the child initially comes to a standstill. Many of the skills that have already been acquired then regress. About 1 in 10,000-15,000 girls has Rett syndrome.


The term autism was first used in 1911 by the Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler. In his opinion, autistic people were people with schizophrenia who were highly self-centered and socially withdrawn.

It wasn't until 1943 that the American psychiatrist describedLeo Kanner Autism as a disorder in its own right that begins in childhood. In doing so, he distinguished autism from schizophrenia. The disorder described by Kanner is known today as early childhood autism (or Kanner syndrome).

Autism has been recognized as a disorder in its own right since the 1980s.

Autism: symptoms

Autism can manifest itself through many symptoms. The term autism includes onebroad spectrum of symptoms, which is why doctors also speak of autism spectrum disorders. Also can autistic disorders different degrees be pronounced - from only mild autistic traits to severe disabilities.

Autism affects different areas of life.Typical characteristicsthat all show are autistic

  • disturbed interpersonal relationships,
  • a disturbed communication and language and
  • limited interests and so-called stereotypical movements and behaviors.

Broken interpersonal relationships

Problems with interpersonal relationships are a typical symptom of an autism spectrum disorder. Autistic people tend toto encapsulate them from their environment. You are only able to a limited extent or not at all to build lasting and trusting relationships with other people. They usually react repulsively to attempts at contact: they avoid eye contact and reject body contact, such as hugs or touches. Sometimes they seek contact by smelling, touching or other senses - these attempts are often connected with certain rituals. When playing, autistic children do not involve other people and prefer to stay to themselves.

Another characteristic: Compared to healthy children, this is Imitation behavior in children with autism only weakly pronounced. For example, autistic children do not wave back when they say goodbye. Also got themDifficulty perceiving and expressing one's own feelings. For example, when they are sad, they usually do not seek solace or cannot adequately express their desire for it.

The extent to which interpersonal relationships are impaired depends primarily on the respective disorder:

  • At theearly childhood autism (Kanner syndrome), the first signs of impaired communication can be seen early on. The social behavior is already noticeable in infancy. Children with early childhood autism do not look at other people, do not greet them or seek physical contact with their parents. For them, their fellow human beings do not seem to exist at all.
  • At theAsperger syndrome Symptoms are milder than in early childhood autism. Relationships with other people are disturbed, but less profound. Asperger's autistic people have limited contact with other children and appear isolated. They find it difficult to empathize with other people's feelings and understand their thoughts. The symptoms usually only become apparent in kindergarten or elementary school.
  • At theRett Syndrome the physical and mental development of the affected girls slows down and skills that have already been acquired are regressed - including the ability to come into contact with other people.

Impaired communication and language

Especially children withearly childhood autism (so-called Kanner syndrome) show impaired language development. You already have in toddler ageDifficulty communicating with others. Many people with early childhood autism never acquire meaningful language. For others, language development is delayed or severely restricted: They speak with little emotional expression and they hardly use their facial expressions and gestures when speaking. In their language use, the children are very much related to themselves and often talk to their counterpart rather than speak to them.

Another characteristic of early childhood autism is an unusual oneemphasized and deep voice melody. Many autistic people in early childhood love to use certain words and repeat them over and over again (so-called echolalia). However, echolalia is important as a special way for autistic people to learn language. Some invent new words (so-called neologisms). Often they twist the meaning of the word "you" and actually mean "I" (so-called pronominal reversal).

With autistic peopleAsperger syndrome on the other hand, language developsnormal. Nevertheless, Asperger's autistic people also have symptomsdisturbed communication on. Although they can speak, they often don't use their language to connect with other people. Many Asperger's autistics show above-average intelligence in certain areas. They often come across as precocious, serious, and unkind. Some have a tendency to talk to themselves, use a flashy melody, and do little to respond to their listeners. This makes it very difficult for those around them to communicate with them. It is noticeable in many Asperger's autistic people that they areTake what is said literally: This is not how you can interpret proverbs, idioms or irony. This sometimes makes it difficult for those around them to have a conversation with them.

Limited interests and stereotypical movements and behaviors

Autistic people tend toStereotypes, that means: You feel the urge to always carry out certain activities according to the same pattern. Some children with early childhood autism move one hand constantly back and forth, while others rock their whole body back and forth over and over again. Also Asperger's Autism tend to stereotypical behaviors: They stick to rituals, for example they always have to brush their teeth at a specific time. They feel overwhelmed by sudden changes.

Autistic children usually do not like to deal with normal toys. Especiallyearly childhood autistics (so-called Kanner syndrome) are usually more interested inPartial aspects one thing: For example, the wheel of a toy car captivates them more than the car itself. In addition, mechanical, rotating objects can attract their attention. For example, they can watch the drum for hours in front of a washing machine. In many cases, early childhood autism is associated with reduced intelligence.

Autistic people are very attachedRituals. For example, it is important to them that pieces of furniture are always in the same place. Many autistic people react with emotional stress to a sudden move of furniture, which can manifest itself in different ways. Symptoms such as great fear, anger, or aggression are possible reactions to such changes, especially in early childhood autism. Autistic children in early childhood show a similar reaction when caregivers suddenly take a different route to the supermarket than they are used to, for example when shopping.

People with Asperger syndrome are mostly of average intelligence and can even show above-average intelligence in some areas. Even so, they often have learning problems. One reason is their lack of attention and a tendency to be distracted by their own spontaneous ideas. Theirs are particularly noteworthyunusual interests. Some already stand out in preschool as true naturalists, art experts or arithmetic artists.

Asperger's autistic people often react to demands or restrictions with outbursts of anger. They also tend to want to get their way. Asperger's autistic people are often clumsy in their movements, which means that their body language is poorly developed.

At theRett Syndrome the affected girls lose the ability to purposefully control their hands: they move their hands in a strange way, as if they were washing something with them. They repeat this movement very often. Your gait appears volatile, gross motor skills and uncoordinated - the same applies to the movements of your upper body. Many grind their teeth and have epileptic fits. A noticeable feature in people with Rett syndrome is slower head growth.

Other restrictions

Autistic people often have anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, and eating disorders. Disturbed alertness, restlessness of movement (so-called hyperkinetic behavior) and so-called tic disorders can be observed especially in people with Asperger's syndrome.

Autism: causes

Depending on the form of the autism spectrum disorder, scientists were able to identify different causes.

Causes of Early Childhood Autism

The causes of early childhood autism are not clearly understood. Researchers believe thatvarious risk factors contribute to the creation. Especially genetic factors seem to play a special role. It is also assumed that certain influences during pregnancy increase the risk of autism. These include, for example, a rubella infection, anemia in early pregnancy or the use of certain medications such as anti-epileptic drugs or serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Causes of Asperger's Syndrome

There are probably several factors that work together to promote Asperger's syndrome. The exact causes have not yet been conclusively clarified.

Asperger's syndrome is common in some families, so onegenetic componentis likely. But other factors are also involved in its development. These include above allorganic brain and biochemical abnormalities.

Causes of Rett Syndrome

In Rett syndrome, which only affects girls, it was possible to narrow down the exact cause. In children, a certain gene (MeCp2) is changed on the X chromosome.

Autism: diagnosis

It is not always easy for the doctor to find one Autism Spectrum Disorder to recognize. Not every baby who doesn't care about their environment is autistic. And some kindergarten or elementary school children would also like to be alone without having an autism spectrum disorder behind it.

It often takes a long time for the doctor to be able to determine an autism spectrum disorder with certainty. Usually a child and adolescent psychiatrist makes the diagnosis.

If the medical professional suspects that a child has autism, he or she will ask the parents about certain unusual behaviors that they may have observed in their child. For example, he will want to know whether the child shows so-called stereotypical behavior - for example by repeating certain body movements over and over again.

In addition, the doctor will carefully guide the childobserve and record his results in appropriate rating scales. Special development and intelligence tests give him further indications of a possible autistic disorder. For example, the IQ in children with early childhood autism is often lower than average.

Other conditions can be accompanied by symptoms reminiscent of autism. Such diseases include, for example, ADHD, an anxiety disorder or impairment in hearing or eyesight. In order to rule out that another illness is the cause of the symptoms, the doctor will carry out a series of further examinations in cooperation with doctors from other specialties.

Autism: Therapy

Heal can you get autism Not. The disorder accompanies those affected throughout their lives despite therapy and more or less restricts them in their social life.

Still, therapy for autism can make a big difference. She can:

  • promote the normal development of those affected
  • Offer help and support in dealing with other people
  • Break down established (rigid) and repetitive (stereotypical) behaviors
  • support the families of those affected

Psychiatrists, psychologists and educators try to achieve these goals with different methods.

Which therapy the doctor will suggest depends first of all on the autism spectrum disorder. In addition, the therapy should always be individually adapted to the person and take into account the respective restrictions, but also personal strengths.

Behavioral training

One of the building blocks of autism therapy is behavior training, a method ofBehavior therapy. An important goal of this treatment is to build relationships with other people and to communicate with them. The behavior training works according to the so-called reward principle. This means: The autistic person receives a reward for every desired behavior (so-called positive reinforcement). For example, if the autistic child makes contact with another child, they will receive a toy as a reward or they can choose an activity. The parents are intensely involved in this form of autism therapy. This allows you to empower your child in the home environment and improve their relationship with them.

Alternative therapies

The autism therapy can toocreative process such as occupational therapy, music therapy, and art therapy. Methods in which animals are used therapeutically are also possible, for example riding therapy (hippo therapy). Fundamental scientific evidence for the effectiveness of such treatments is still lacking. In individual cases and as part of a complete treatment plan, however, they can be helpful for autistic people.

With the help of physiotherapy and language training, motor abnormalities and language disorders can be reduced. In addition, autistic people can benefit greatly from occupational therapy.

Parental work

The last but not least plays a role in the success of autism therapyParental work a major role. Parents can only effectively support an autistic child if they accept and understand their disorder.For many parents, their child's illness is a psychological burden. You can learn to cope better with the situation by doing extensive research and seeking support. Just knowing that, contrary to earlier assumptions, upbringing has nothing to do with the development of autism means one for many discharge.

In order to support the child in the best possible way, it is important to work with parentsthe right amount to find - i.e. not to inhibit the child in his development, but not to overwhelm it either. The more realistic the treatment goals, the more likely you will see noticeable progress. In all parenting work, it is also advisable that parents give their own well-being don't lose sight of it. If necessary, they should not be afraid to seek help, for example in the form of hourly supervision or short-term care facilities for the child.


So far there isnoMedicationthat work reliably against the main symptoms. Therefore, drugs are only used for autismSide effects to treat autistic disorder. For example, neuroleptics and benzodiazepines help to reduce severe tension and limit self-harm. Many autistic people have epileptic seizures that are also treated with medication.

Autism: course

How a child with autism develops depends on a number of factors. An autistic person usually remainsImpaired a lifetime. However, the course of an autistic disorder depends in particular onAbout what Autism Spectrum Disorder is present andhow strong development is restricted.

At theAsperger syndrome the autistic traits are rather mild. As adults, people with Asperger's Syndrome can usually organize their everyday lives independently and pursue a job. However, many live in isolation and do not develop close relationships with other people. Sometimes, however, they also achieve special achievements through selective skills.

People who are affected by other forms of autism (e.g. early childhood autism, Rett syndrome) usually need strong support in leading their lives. Autistic people in particular, whose mental development has lagged behind, often live in social institutions. As a rule, autistic people in early childhood cannot pursue a normal everyday life. Improvements only occur in individual cases. Rett syndrome progresses slowly, and the affected person needs more and more care over the course of their lives.

Prevent autism?

You can do autismdo not prevent. However, the earlier an autistic disorder is recognized, the better the child can be supported in its development.

Symptoms such as impaired communication skills, social withdrawal or restricted behavior can have many causes. Sometimes they can be signs of a pervasive developmental disorder like autism. If you observe any abnormalities in your child, you should consult your doctor.

Wiegersma, A., et al .: Association of Prenatal Maternal Anemia With Neurodevelopmental Disorders. JAMA Psychiatry, published online (September 18, 2019)

Gortner, L., Meyer, S .: Dual series paediatrics. Thieme, Stuttgart 2018

Autism Spectrum Disorder. Online information from the Pschyrembel: (as of April 2016)

Guidelines of the German Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy: Autism Spectrum Disorders in Children, Adolescents and Adults, Part 1: Diagnostics. AWMF guidelines register No. 028/018 (status: 5.4.2016)

Kerbl, R., et al .: Checklist pediatrics. Thieme, Stuttgart 2015

Möller, H., Laux, G., Deister, A .: Dual series of psychiatry, psychosomatics and psychotherapy. Thieme, Stuttgart 2015

Aarons, M, Gittens, T .: The Handbook of Autism. Beltz Verlag, Weinheim 2013

additional Information

ICD-10 Diagnostic Key:

You can find the appropriate ICD-10 code for "Autism" here:

Onmeda reading tips:

Self-help groups / advice centers:

Book tips:

Last content check:02.10.2019
Last change: 23.01.2020