Autism by Francesca Happe

By Francesca Happe

This name is meant for complicated undergraduate and masters point scholars in psychology; specialist scientific, developmental and academic psychologists; normal practitioners and others with a different curiosity in teenagers; careworkers; and oldsters of autistic kids.

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Extra resources for Autism

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Autopsy studies, usually involving only a handful of subjects, have provided some evidence of abnormalities in the cerebellum, including significant reductions in Purkinje cell density compared with normal controls (Ritvo et al. 1986). Bauman & Kemper (1985), in a single case study of a severely mentally handicapped and epileptic man with autism, found abnormalities in the hippocampus, parts of the amygdala, and cerebellum, compared with a normal age-matched male subject. Without data from the brains of non-autistic people with learning difficulties (mental handicap), however, data from any but normally intelligent autistic subjects are hard to interpret.

The most important element in our surroundings is human. We make sense of behaviour in terms of mental states. Without such a “theory of mind”, the social world must be a terrifying, unpredictable place. No wonder the autistic child often fights against it, or withdraws from it physically or mentally. What is the practical value of this insight? Much of the autistic person’s strange behaviour can be better understood if we remember that he cannot “mindread” in the way most of us do. Take for example the autistic girl who had a tantrum every time she was told she was going swimming, until someone thought to say, “we’re going swimming—and we’re coming back”!

1 The sabotage and deception tasks (Sodian & Frith 1992; by kind permission of the artist, Axel Scheffler). knowledge. This idea is similar to Boucher’s (1989) suggestion that autism is primarily due to a “failure to use available skills”, or “to spontaneously use higher order representational systems”. To be more than a description of findings, and to allow testable predictions, such a suggestion must explain why subjects with autism fail to apply knowledge which they possess. Bowler suggests that the good task performance of his 50 DOES FAILURE REFLECT INABILITY TO MENTALIZE?

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