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

Is Society Progressing in Its Response to Autism?

By Barb Cohen on October 16, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
The television producer suggested that my daughter skip class the day of filming. She has too much to say and too little control over when she says it.
Angus Third Pounder/Adam Kuban/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Why Are Most of Us So Good at Deceiving Ourselves?

By Barb Cohen on October 08, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
Columbus, cognitive dissonance and autism shed light on our coping strategies.

5 Tips on Getting Your Aspie/Autie Husband to Talk More

By Eva A. Mendes LMHC on October 04, 2017 in The Heart of Autism
Especially after marriage, a husband with Asperger's Syndrome might relax and be more himself. He will behave more like he does when he’s alone, which can mean being silent.

Sex and Age Implicated in Autism-Related Diagnoses

Recent research reveals how sex and age are linked to other disorders which tend to co-occur with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Can Vaccinations Cause Autism in Dogs?

By Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC on September 26, 2017 in Canine Corner
People who choose not to vaccinate their dogs for rabies don't recognize the risk that they are exposing their pets to.

Let's Eliminate Physical Restraints in Group Homes

By Robert T Muller Ph.D. on September 06, 2017 in Talking About Trauma
Physical restraints place children and youth at serious risk.

All Autistic Behavior is Not Communication

By Amy S.F. Lutz on September 05, 2017 in Inspectrum
Parents and providers need to recognize when aggression and/or self-injury is driven by biological factors that can be medically treated.

Neurodiversity and Autism in College

Another way to look at autism, neurodiversity, and how we face diversity as a society and as individuals.

Voices: Overheard in Psychosis But Underheard in Autism

As predicted by the diametric model, auditory symptoms in psychosis are opposite to those in autism, and both are extensions of normality.

Six Ways to Be More Supportive to Those Closest to You

When the people you care about the most are in need of support, are you ready to be there for them? Based on new research, these 6 tips will help you help them.

What Causes What?

By Paul Thagard Ph.D. on August 24, 2017 in Hot Thought
Deciding whether something causes a spike in disease or a pattern like global warming requires careful inferences.

Male Risk of Autism: No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Stigmatizing autism research as "sexist" for finding a gender difference in risk is not going to help us discover the truth about it.

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.