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. People with autism often have restricted interests and engage in repetitive behaviors.

Because autism's symptoms vary greatly, the condition is said to exist on a spectrum, referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder. (Asperger's Syndrome is a condition that is considered to be "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; it is not clear whether the incidence is truly increasing, whether experts are more alert to it, or whether the diagnosis has shifted to include lesser degrees of impairment. No one knows for sure what causes autism, but numerous studies link it to advanced maternal and/or paternal age at conception increasing the risk of direct genetic mutations or of factors that influence the expression of genes in he developing brain.

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

Recent posts on Autism

John Elder Robison’s “Switched On”

This latest book recounts Robison's participation in an early transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) study that hoped would help people with ASD better read emotions in others.

To Say "I" Means To Be Alone

By Elena Bezzubova on August 12, 2017 in The Search for Self
Loneliness seems a transient step to self identity that could include depersonalization-like feelings of detachment and autism/introversion-like feelings of isolation.

Why Advertising Falls Flat in Individuals With Autism

Individuals with autism may be impervious to misleading marketing. Mental differences are often considered weaknesses, but autism may not be entirely a disability.
Arren Aljfe/ Flickr

MRI Scans are Transforming Autism Detection and Treatment

What are the benefits of earlier autism detection? It can allow the most appropriate treatment to be delivered at a time when a child could benefit the most.

An Answer To Your ASD Teen's Tantrums.

"A meltdown can last in the upwards of fifteen minutes plus, and there is very little a parent can do to console their child. The promise of consequences doesn’t work".

Gulliver’s Travels: Another Classic Portrayal of Autism

Gulliver’s Travels can be read as an autistic’s satire on a society into which he does not fit: neither physically nor mentally.
"Signage 55 speed limit"/David Lofink/CC BY 2.0

Can We Teach the Rules for Breaking the Rules?

By Barb Cohen on July 27, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
If I take a box of pens from a store without paying, I commit shoplifting. But suppose I take a box of pens from the office where I work. Will my coworkers judge me a thief?

The New Science of Using Eye Movements as a Test for Autism

Neuroscientists have identified a radical new way to test for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by monitoring rapid eye movements.

Why Your ASD Teen Gets Bullied

The ASD Teen, struggles with picking up on nonverbal cues, this is problematic in social situations especially with young people.

Matter- but Not Mind-blind—and Vice Versa

A pioneering study shows mentalism to vary inversely with mechanistic cognition as predicted by the diametric model.

The Question of Contact

By David Kyle Johnson Ph.D. on July 10, 2017 in Plato on Pop
Can personal experience ever be used to justifiably override scientific evidence or argument?

The ABC of the Diametric Model, Twenty Years On

Twenty years after it was first published, the diametric model can be seen as a striking co-discovery like so many others in the history of science.

Theory of Mind: Understanding Others in a Social World

When do we develop an understanding of the beliefs, emotions, and intentions of others? How does this understanding set us up for success in other areas of life?
BBC

Tips to Spot Bad Apples Online: Volume One

Do you have the skills to recognize when you are being duped?

There Is a New Link Between Screen-Time and Autism

Don’t expect boys to “grow out of” their obsession with screens.

The Arts as an Opportunity for Psychological Research

All children, all over the world, engage in dance, music, dramatic pretend play, and art. How can psychologists use this opportunity to study child development in the real world?

What Older Dads Need To Know

Are geeks taking over the world? The sons of older fathers are more geeky, and do better academically in success-predicting academics. The "Geek Index" helps us study geekiness.
"Stoop Storytelling"/Leah Miller/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Why We Share Our Private Stories

By Barb Cohen on June 22, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
How do we find our place in the world? By standing up and telling the stories in which we play the starring role.

The Para-professional–Student Relationship

Para-professionals wield tremendous power over their charges. After reading “My Paraprofessional Was Supposed to Help me; instead, she Bullied me” I went looking for an interview.

Why Is ASD Often Associated with Social Anxiety?

"We can say that all, if not most people diagnosed with ASD have remarkable issues with social interactions, however not all people on the spectrum end up with social anxiety."
Pixabay

Helping Your Child with Autism Improve Social Skills

As a parent of a child with autism, do you wonder how you can help him approach social situations with confidence, rather than anxiety? These strategies can help you help him.
"Sewing Machine"/Steffen Zahn/CC BY 2.0

How Does Parenting Work When the Instruction Manual Fails?

By Barb Cohen on June 12, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
Maybe x is the problem, maybe x is part of the problem, or maybe x is irrelevant to the problem. With regard to sewing machines, much like my children, I will never know.

Co-Parenting Tips If You Have Asperger's/Autism

I’m currently working with a wonderful father who has Asperger’s, and he’s been doing a wonderful job navigation the co-parenting situation.

Surfing Brainwaves with EEG

Would you watch a movie filmed at one frame per second? Many brain scans are like slow movies. To add the dimension of time, we need EEG.

Neurodivergence

A college student with Asperger's Disorder helps neurotypicals understand and accept neurodivergent people.
R. Downie fall/TwoWings/CC BY 3.0

When Parenting Becomes a Spectator Sport

By Barb Cohen on May 29, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
The strongest parents absorb the professionals' good advice, ignore the useless commentary, and treat themselves with compassion. But most of us are not among the strongest.

Sibling Leadership Network hosts 10th annual conference

Two-day event brings together siblings of people with disabilities to learn about new services and support, research initiatives and advocacy efforts.
Paul Nunez

What Makes the Human Brain “Human?” Part 2

How do “small world” connections contribute to brain complexity and a healthy mind?

Autism, Guardianship, Self Determination, and Housing

There's a controversy brewing over supported housing for autistic people. Are autistic communities supportive or oppressive? Who decides - autistics or parents?

The Price of Being a Loner

By Barb Cohen on May 21, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
Without a social brain, imperfection is never “normalized;” the soothing mantra “Everybody feels this way sometimes” cannot be internalized.