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Living in a Closed World

The number of individuals diagnosed with autism is on the rise. At Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Ward of Kenézy Hospital, there are as many as 50 new cases treated every year, which is twice the amount of the cases 15 years ago.

For this token, the attention of the general public was called to the issue of the difficulties of people with autism on the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day, on April 2.

Autism is a development disorder of the nervous system, which occurs as a joint consequence of genetic factors and harmful influences on said system. It is important to note that it is not an illness but a condition. Autistic individuals experience the world, react to impulses from their environment, and think in a different way than expected in general, which is due to the differences in the development of their central nervous system.

“The first signs and symptoms are related to problems in communication and social interaction. These might range from how a child does not respond when accosted or called by name, does not look his or her parents in the eye, or does not use toys according to their original function but keeps twirling or rearranging them instead. Examinations are also often prompted by a delayed speech development,” said Katalin Kamuti, Head Physician of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Ward of Kenézy Hospital.

Katalin Kamuti also added that autism is usually diagnosed at around age three, when children start nursery school or kindergarten but, in a number of cases, it can also happen that it is recognized during the course of routine examinations not related to autism-specific symptoms in teenagers or high school students, prompted by behavioral problems or other serious OCD symptoms.

“We tend to come across more and more new cases these days. A simple reason for this could be that we have more efficient ways of diagnosing them and we also pay more attention to potential early signs. At present, we are able to diagnose even those who dispose of highly intellectual skills and abilities and can function effectively in society. These individuals might not have been identified as autistic before, as they were able to adapt themselves relatively well to their immediate communities or to society in general. However, they also may have significant problems and need help quite often. Today, even pediatricians and community child health nurses are trained to administer proper screening, which can assist us in early identification,” said Katalin Kamuti.

The head physician emphasized that the earlier the symptoms of autism could be diagnosed, the easier and more efficient the treatment and development possibilities might become.

“There is no autism-specific medical therapy available. The basis is generally special education, with which we can help them to adapt to ‘our world.’ Medical therapies, medication, or psychotherapy is only necessary if there are other symptoms associated with autism, such as obsessive-compulsive behavior patterns, sleep disorders, dysphoria, impulsive reactions, and obsessions,” said the head physician.

In Hungary, the only kindergarten and grade school for children with autism that offers education and skills development tailored to individual needs is integrated in Kenézy Gyula Egyetemi Kórház Gyermekpszichiátriai Osztály in Debrecen, where experts in special education take care of teaching and instruction tasks.

For a successful therapy of autistic patients, the role of the parents is also very important. This is why training sessions for parents are also offered here, which can be helpful for development at home. Kids with autism often attract attention in public through their special behavior, for which the uninitiated might consider them just naughty and spoiled brats. Parents are also assisted in making sense of this special condition, in order to be able to see the world and their own kids through the spectacles of autism.

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