Autism as a biomedical condition

Autism as a biomedical condition not a mental disorder

Autism is diagnosed as a behaviour defined psychiatric disorder, which involves impaired social interaction, impaired social communication and impaired social imagination and stereotypical activities. The history of the diagnosis of autism spans over 70 years. Leo Kanner was the first person to publish his findings in 11 cases with “autistic disturbances of affective contact” (1943). In the 1950’s the psychogenic model for autism was born with emotional frigidity of the mother being viewed as the background for the condition. This attitude was refuted by Dr Bernie Rimland’s publication in 1964 called: Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior.

A wealth of publications exist about the secondary features of autism, including:

  • cognitive deficits;
  • gastro-intestinal disease; 
  • food allergies;
  • developmental language disorders;
  • immune disorder;
  • sensory dysregulation; and
  • motor skills problems.

Comorbid diagnoses include ADHD and epilepsy, amongst others. Certain genetic conditions may present with autism too, for example Rett Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, Fragile X, etc.

Several studies are currently being conducted to evaluate possible contributors to autism.
One needs to assess the gastro-intestinal disorder, the immune disorder, the neuro-metabolic and the neuro-endocrine disorders in every child to be able to offer support and improved outcome.

It is invaluable to be able to look at scientific research as guidance, although research can present on different levels: prescience, normal science and a paradigm shift.