The term "Autism" is commonly used to define some syndromes of a neurobiological nature grouped together under the nosological category of "Autism Spectrum Disorders" (ASD). The aetiology of autism remains, for the most part, unknown and, even today, a decisive cure does not exist: one is born with autism and one lives with it all of one’s life.
ASD are characterised by difficulties in communication and in social interaction and limited and stereotyped behaviour and interests.
Alongside this basic symptoms, people affected by autism may also present problems with sleep, food, motor disharmony, disharmony in their cognitive ability, scarce personal and social autonomy, behavioural difficulties, self-harm and aggression to differing degrees. The innate patrimony which enables people to enter into contact with others, intuit their needs, their emotional states and their expectations, is an ability in all human beings wherever they find themselves and beyond all ethnic and cultural differences, which is absent or strongly compromised in people with autism. Many autistic people, with very high functioning levels, that is with an intellectual and linguistic level which allows them to be talk about their autism, define themselves as "extra-terrestrials", because of their sense of not belonging and the disorientation which a world based on neurotypicalness provokes in them.
When we speak of autism, we usually focus our attention on the individual, ignoring the effect that this pathology has on its related systems: the family, the groups the autistic person belongs to, but also more generally, our society.
Whoever orbits around a person affected by autism is called on to supply special high-level care, in terms of the quantity and time required, compared to what we normally give to a neurotypical person, often receiving relational and emotional frustration and social isolation in exchange.
Autism cannot be cured, but early, global, evidence based intervention work which, most importantly, respects the person and his/her specificity, makes a difference and enables notable improvements and increases in the quality of life to be gained for those affected, his/her nuclear family and the others in the groups he/she belongs to.