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Bad health care situation for people with autism

March 4, 2021, 4:05 pm

For most of us, the corona virus is a nightmare. Not only because of the potential health risk, but also because social contacts are massively restricted as a result of the measures imposed.
But there are also people who do not suffer at all from having to be alone all the time. Autism sufferers in particular have no problem with this, on the contrary - they much prefer to be alone than in company.

A bit different

Cabaret artist Günther Paal, better known as Gunkl, feels most comfortable alone. He has a mild form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome. Günther Paal hates parties, family celebrations, small talk, prefers to spend his vacations alone, driving hundreds of kilometers on highways, always buys 30 pairs of socks that are evenly washed and thrown away together and he has a preference for right angles. Gunkl does not suffer from his illness. "More like the others," he says.

Childhood Autism

For Maria Spenger and her 4-year-old son David, the situation is clearly different. David is affected by autism in early childhood. He has difficulty recognizing the feelings of other people, is very sensitive to noise, has no "first-person perspective" (he does not use the word "I" when speaking) and symbol or role-playing is not possible for him. The biggest problem for his mother is that he is very bad at handling change. So she always has to take the same route when going for a walk, otherwise David reacts with violent rejection.

A disease with many faces

About one percent of the population is affected by autism. The umbrella term correctly reads autism spectrum disorder, as the individual symptoms often merge into one another. In addition to Asperger's Syndrome and early childhood autism, there is also "high-functioning" autism. It is similar to the early childhood form - but these children are more intelligent.
According to the latest research, the causes of autistic disorders are genetic and neurophysiological factors.

The "knowing"

About 100 people on this planet have skills that leave the rest of us amazed. Some of them only see a panorama photo of a city for a short time and can immediately reproduce it from memory - down to the last detail. Others hear a complex piece of music - and then play it back without any errors. Some are fluent in over 50 languages ​​or know entire phone books by heart - like Raymond Babbitt, played by Dustin Hoffman, in the 1988 film "Rain Man". People with such miraculous abilities are also known as "savants". About half of these highly gifted people in one area are autistic.

Interdisciplinary therapy

Autism is not curable, but one can make up for some of the deficits with adequate therapy, so that many affected people can lead an independent life with work, relationships, friends, etc. Psychoeducational and learning theory programs are best suited. Supported by speech therapy, occupational and riding therapy or music and animal-assisted therapy. Medication is only useful in the case of comorbidities such as sleep disorders, anxiety disorders or ADHD. It is also important that the people concerned are included in the therapy. Parents, kindergarten educators, and teachers can learn how to best promote an autistic child.

Bad care

In contrast to the media attention that these sometimes dazzling symptoms arouses, the care situation for sick children (and adults) in Austria is extremely dreary compared to many other countries! The parents usually have to pay for the necessary diagnostic measures themselves. In addition, there are only very few specialists in child psychiatry with a sickness certificate and there is also a lack of specialized facilities. Difficult to understand with probably around 80,000 sick children.
However, the supply situation has improved a little in recent years. New autism centers were founded in Salzburg and Linz, and Vienna has had one since last year.

Moderation: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Manfred Götz
Shipment preparation: Mag.a Nora Kirchschlager
Editor: Dr. Christoph Leprich

Have a say too! We look forward to your questions and suggestions. Our number: 0800/22 69 79, free of charge from all over Austria.

Does Your Child Have Autism?

What is difficult for your child? What is it especially good at?

Do you know anyone who has Asperger's Syndrome?

What is particularly characteristic of this person?

Have you got hold of a publicly funded therapy place for your child or do you have to pay for the therapy yourself?


Broadcast guest at Funkhaus Wien:

Prim. Dr. Klaus Vavrik
Specialist in child and adolescent medicine, specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry, psychotherapist
Medical director of the Autism Therapy Center Vienna

Guests connected by phone:

Maria Spenger
Mother of a 4 year old boy with early childhood autism

Günther Paal, "Gunkl"
cabaret artist
Affected by Asperger's Syndrome

Mag.a Johanna Kienzl
Elective Psychologist, Clinical and Health Psychologist; modern dance teacher; Special trainer for people with autism spectrum disorder
Chairwoman of the association nomaden - support for people with autism spectrum disorder

Further contact points and information links:

Diagnosis and therapy of autism
Parent webinar "Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders and Practical Assistance for Everyday Life after TEACCH" (May 28/29, 2021)
Film: Autism - Friendship doesn't need words
Umbrella organization Austrian Autism Aid
Autism Aid Upper Austria (with many nationwide contact points)
Sunshine Autism Center in St. Pölten
Autism Competence Center Salzburg
Autism Competence Center Linz
Rainmans Home day care center
Employment agency for autistic people
Center for Diagnostics and Therapy in Graz
Inclusion of Carinthia
Autism help in Innsbruck
Autism Burgenland Association
Autism counseling in Vorarlberg

Book tips:

Christiane Arens-Wiebel, "Autism - What Parents and Educators Need to Know",
W. Kohlhammer GmbH 2019

Thomas Girsberger, "The many colors of autism: spectrum, causes, diagnosis, therapy and advice", W. Kohlhammer GmbH 2020

Daniela Dankova, "Autism Spectrum Disorder: Asperger's Syndrome: Symptoms, Therapy, Coping with Everyday Life", Books on Demand 2020