What is Autism?

A pervasive developmental disorder, autism affects information processing in multiple ways. Many people with autism have difficulties with social interactions and communication, sensory deficits, and poor motor coordination. Autistic people often have restricted interests and engage in repetitive behaviors.

Because autism's symptoms vary greatly, it's said to exist on a spectrum, and is increasing referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder. (Asperger's is a condition often referred to as "high functioning" autism.) Some people with autism have low intelligence while others are quite intelligent.

Autism usually manifests by age two. It affects far more males than females. The frequency of diagnosis has surged over the past 20 years. No one knows for sure what causes autism, but numerous studies link it to advanced maternal and/or paternal age at conception.

Reports implicating mercury-containing vaccines have proved baseless, although there is some evidence that environmental toxins may play a role. Some research suggests that autism reflects an "extreme male brain," because people with the condition often have an obsession with details and systemizing but are low on empathizing ability. There is no cure for autism, although some symptoms may ease over the years.

Recent posts on Autism

Two Minutes to Wapner

"If our son isn't doing what he wants, when he wants, than all bets are off." What to do when the problem is not "disobedience," but cognitive rigidity and anxiety.

Pets on the Couch: Do Animals Need Freud and Pfizer?

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on August 17, 2016 in Animal Emotions
Animal psychiatry is a rapidly growing field and Dr. Nicholas Dodman's new book called Pets on the Couch is a must read for all who choose to share their home with another animal.

A Key Brain Protein Fits the Diametric Model

Levels of the key brain protein, BDNF, vary as predicted by the diametric model of mental illness: lower in psychotic spectrum disorders, but higher in autistic spectrum ones.

Back to School, Back to Stress: 5 Tips for Autism Parents

For many parents of children with autism and special needs, the days and weeks leading to “Back to School” can be extremely nerve-wracking.

Gifted Programs’ Embarrassing Secret

All gifted children should receive the specialized services they need to reach their fullest potential. Then why are some gifted students excluded?

Autism, Socrates and Our Inner Self

What is autism? What does Socrates say about it?

New Study Reveals How Immune System Affects Social Behavior

By Nathan H. Lents, Ph.D. on August 08, 2016 in Beastly Behavior
Could evolution have programmed us to avoid social interactions when we might be contagious?

Mothers, Madness, and Mitochondria

The role of mitochondria in providing energy and countering cancer, along with their maternal mode of inheritance, makes them predictably implicated in psychiatric disorders.

Teens With Autism: Looking at Strengths for Employment

By Chantal Sicile-Kira on August 02, 2016 in The Autism Advocate
Are you thinking about your teen with autism and possible employment? Consider his interests, strengths, and obsessions.

Cognitive Rigidity: The 8-Ball From Hell

Cognitive Rigidity (difficulty changing mental sets) is a core feature of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and is commonly associated with a suite of challenging traits.

I Don't Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

By Amy S.F. Lutz on July 29, 2016 in Inspectrum
Before we can appropriately support the severely developmentally disabled, we need to understand their impairments. Yet parents who describe them are routinely castigated.

Your Eyes Are a Window Into the Inner Workings of Your Brain

William Shakespeare is credited with observing, "Eyes are the window to the soul." A new study goes one step farther by showing how your eyes are a window into your brain.

Ping Lian Yeak, Artist

Ping Lian Yeak makes the leap from "autistic artist" to "artist" with his exhibition at a prominent New York gallery.

The Incredible Healing Modality You've Never Heard Of

By Emma M. Seppälä Ph.D. on July 26, 2016 in Feeling It
Foot zoning looks a lot like acupressure but is not at all the same. Foot zoning, practitioners claim, brings a person back into balance.
James Coplan, MD

Autism: Epidemic or Explosion? (And Why It Matters)

Are we truly living in the age of autism? Making sense of the numbers.

Can Dogs Have Autism?

By Nicholas Dodman on July 06, 2016 in Dog Days
If your dog fixates on things and seems withdrawn and antisocial, maybe he has a canine version of autism – or perhaps Fragile X syndrome?

Understanding Behavioral Therapy for Autism

Long-term planning for children with autism requires patience and diligence. Behavioral therapy, as time and labor-intensive as it seems, remains the foundation of skill building.

New Evidence for a Way to Raise Your IQ

By Bryan Roche, Ph.D. on June 20, 2016 in IQ Boot Camp
Psychologists may have found the key to unlocking human intellectual potential. It's all about understanding "relational concepts" and the good news is these are easily learned.

Children, Dogs and the Power of Unconditional Love

For these kids, the human/dog bond really does lead to hope and healing.
By Rennett Stowe from USA (Tapping a Pencil  Uploaded by Atmoz) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Everyday Executive Functioning Challenges

By Jessica Garrett Mills PhD on June 14, 2016 in On Track
Are you reading blogs when you ought to be working? It could be an executive functioning problem.

A Fresh Take on Asperger's

Whether Asperger's is a disorder is a matter of context. Disorder is relational and situational, not absolute and irrevocable, as terminology and everyday assumption suggest.
Wikimedia commons

Separating Fact From Fiction in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. Especially where autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is concerned.

Autism and Neuroscience: A Public Health Perspective

By Claudia M Gold M.D. on May 31, 2016 in Child in Mind
Children with autism have signals that are difficult to read, leading to patterns of miscommunication. Listening carefully to all infants and parents offers the path to prevention.

Consciousness and Neurodiversity

The shift in conceptualizing cognitive functions as a range of diverse abilities—or neurodiversity—may be understood by examining the consciousness-attention dissociation.

Now You See It: Diametric Differences Revealed in the Brain

The first study to image brain activity in game playing according to participants’ autistic as opposed to psychotic tendencies reveals patterns consistent with the diametric model.

Want to Up Your Game? Visual Guidance Optimizes Motor Skills

A new visually guided coaching method improves both gaze patterns and the acquisition of complex motor skills.
Chantal Sicile-Kira

Preparing Teens With Autism for Work: Self Employment

Looking at self-employment as an option sometimes leads to an actual job. The process of discovering a person’s strengths and weaknesses can lead to traditional employment.

5 Reasons the Cerebellum Is Key to Thriving in a Digital Age

For human beings to thrive in a digital age, the cerebellum must not be allowed to atrophy by sitting all day, limiting face-to-face contact, or excessive screen time.

Do Vitamins Cause Autism?

By Mark Borigini M.D. on May 13, 2016 in Overcoming Pain
Most striking were the 21 mothers who had “excess” levels of both vitamins. In this group, 10 had children who were diagnosed with autism. In other words, almost one-half.