presentation

The apparent rise in the prevalence of ASD in children at the end of the twentieth century was 20 out of every 10,000 and now it is estimated to be 1 out of every 100 - 200 (160) children, which marks a significant change in the conceptualisation of the disorder and the services that should be offered to foster the healthy development and social inclusion of these children and their families.

The core characteristics of the disorder – qualitative communication disorders, qualitative social interaction disorders, restricted range of interests and activities, stereotyping and restrictive behaviour and disorders in the integration of sensory stimuli – mean that in many cases individuals with ASD show disorders in their behaviour that make it considerably more difficult for them to be, participate, learn and work in their immediate social environment.

To date, there is no known common aetiology; it has a multifactorial aetiology with implications from genetic, environmental and epigenetic factors, with interactions between them that are very difficult to decipher; there are also no biological markers to establish a specific diagnosis.

It is also recognised that the presence of a family member with ASD seriously affects the family system as a whole; parents and family members of individuals with autism are exposed to multiple challenges that have a severe impact on the family unit (emotionally, economically and socially).
Behavioural disorders that children, teenagers, young people and adults display, disorders on the autism spectrum, are concerning for parents, carers, educators, teachers, professionals, public administrations and society in general.

Some authors suggest that adults with autism may present levels of anxiety that are three times higher than in those without autism. Comparisons have even been made between ritualistic and repetitive behaviour, normally associated with autism, and obsessive-compulsive anxiety disorders. These symptoms of anxiety, interpreted as "behavioural problems", may interfere with social and educational interactions.

As we mentioned earlier, poor social functioning is one of the "hallmarks" of the autism spectrum disorder. And poor social skills increase the probability of subsequent negative consequences, such as: rejecting colleagues, social isolation, limited academic results, delinquency, marginal employment as adults and mental health problems.

Evidence-based psychosocial interventions, such as behavioural therapy, which should be combined with more general measures such as changes to the physical, social and attitudinal environment, may impact positively on the quality of life and well-being of the individual.
Given the evidence, the specialists who took part in the conference suggested behavioural problems could be tackled on the basis of changes to education, through therapy, support for families and commitment in community social contexts.

This fourth conference followed the joint strategic approach between the Althaia Foundation and the Ampans Foundation by transferring knowledge to professionals and as an essential addition to the Postgraduate Course in Mental Health and Behavioural Disorders in people with intellectual disabilities, and networking through the management of services and support for individuals who show behavioural disorders.

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