The autistic spectrum: From theory to practice
The autistic spectrum: From theory to practice

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The autistic spectrum: From theory to practice

4.8 Section summary

  • Most socio-cognitive approaches to autistic spectrum disorders seek to unify different symptoms in terms of models of underlying functioning.

  • Theory of mind approaches argue that difficulties in understanding mental states such as beliefs, intentions and desires are the ‘core’ problem.

  • Experimental tests of theory of mind employ tasks such as testing the understanding of false belief.

  • Baron-Cohen has identified early developmental milestones such as gaze-following as ‘pre-mind-reading’ skills. Children with autism show less of these skills compared to controls.

  • Some individuals with autism pass theory of mind tasks and have some capacity for everyday social understanding.

  • Self-awareness is an important skill that goes with more advanced theory of mind performance.

  • Frith and Happé have addressed symptoms such as repetitive behaviour and obsessive interests via a ‘cognitive style’ approach.

  • Hobson highlights a lack of innate emotional relatedness and a consequent deficit in inter-subjectivity as a key feature of autistic spectrum disorders.

  • Effects of a child's autism on parents and siblings are well documented.


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