Interview with Danièle Langloys, president of Autisme France. She gives lots of advice ...
Are there different degrees of autism?
The most severe form of autism is Kanner 's autism (named after psychiatrist Leo Kanner). People with this form of autism present, in addition to their autistic disorders, mental disabilities for 70% of them. It is estimated that 30% of people with autism are Kanner autistics.
As for people known as Asperger, they represent 15 to 20% of people with autism. Most people with autism are thought to have pervasive developmental disorders.
These figures are estimates because very few studies have been done to identify people with autism.
Can people with autism have an "almost" normal life, working and being independent?
It depends on their intellectual level. This is more obvious for an autistic person who does not have a disability, since it can more easily develop and learn. On the other hand, autism remains a severe handicap that can lead to stereotypical behavior, such as difficulties to communicate, a withdrawal into oneself that can be badly perceived in the professional environment. The few people with autism who have degrees find it difficult to work, because despite their success, they still need support to understand their social environment. If support was put in place in the companies, the situation would be different.
What are the optimal solutions for caring for people with autism?
First, a diagnosis must be made ... and this is not always the case. It is often wrong or not given. It is important to have an early diagnosis. Presumably 95% of adults with autism have no diagnosis.
Once the diagnosis is made, educational support must begin very early, from 2 years, or even 18 months. It is by taking it early and effectively that it is most likely to channel and limit the troubles. People with autism need educational and social support throughout their lives. However, people with autism are all different, so we must adapt the support project to the person, and reevaluate if necessary.
In practice, what advice to give to parents of an autistic child?
First of all, it is important for the family to collaborate with the projects put in place by professionals to the extent of their possibilities and with guidance. If there is no coherence between the education given in a service or institution, and at home, the autistic child will be lost and can not evolve. For this, it is important to inform and train families, to help them and to accompany them.
And vis-à-vis their space or the notion of time?
It is important to structure space and time because the autistic child does not know how to do it. Many visual communication tools need to be developed and generalized because people with autism have a perception of things that selects details. It is also necessary to give them socialization tools to teach them social codes. For example, how to react to everyday situations that can be sources of anxiety?
It could be interesting to create image banks through which we could get videos featuring social scenarios to show people with autism disorders, how to react. The visual is a good working support.
Sources and notes
- Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, 3rd Autism Plan 2013-2017
- High Authority of Health, Autism, Questions / Answers HAS - ANESM 08 March 2012.