Autism Spectrum Disorders / ASD

A neurodevelopmental disorder of varying intensity, autism is characterised by a great heterogeneity within individual cases. The term autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has the advantage of encompassing conditions such as pervasive behavioural disorders and Asperger’s syndrome.

Autism spectrum disorders usually appear in the early years of life and affect mostly boys – four boys for every girl. These pervasive disorders currently affect 1% of the population. But recent global data indicate a clear progression of the disease: whereas it concerned only one child in three thousand in the 1970s across the Atlantic, it now affects one child in sixty-eight…

ASD is defined as an “autistic triad”: a communication disorder, altered social interactions, and behavioural abnormalities. Other specificities such as intellectual disability, talent in a particular field, attention to detail or, more frequently, sleep problems may be added to this triad.

Treatments - the promise of research:

Today, management options are progressing only slowly, but professionals are increasingly coming to understand the disease. Research – conducted among many disciplines such as genetics, epidemiology, immunology or brain imaging – focusses on identifying the origins, risk factors and biological markers of the disease, in order to better diagnose and treat autism spectrum disorders.

The study of environmental factors and their interaction with genetic factors, viral attacks or immune system dysfunction are particularly promising fields of research.

Finally, new hypotheses are based on the observation of patients’ and their families’ lifestyles: for example, the role of the digestive system in ASDs attracts the attention of researchers, the study of the enteric nervous system and the microbiota, these thousands of bacteria that populate the digestive system, are all innovative and very promising avenues of research.