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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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Glossary


Browse the glossary using this index

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P

Polygenic

A condition or trait that is due to the combined effects of multiple genes (as opposed to the influence of a single gene). This applies to all but a small minority of autism cases (for instance those where autism is associated with a single gene disorder called neurofibromatosis). In autism the role of multiple genes is further complicated because different gene combinations may be involved in different individuals. (See also genetic heterogeneity.)


Pretend play

A type of play in which children use imagination to enact events or scenarios they may have experienced or that are completely imaginary. It can involve taking another person’s perspective, manipulating ideas and emotions (‘role-playing’) or the imaginative use of objects as props.


Prevalence

An estimate of the number of cases of a condition within a population at a particular time. Prevalence is estimated by identifying how many people in a population sample have been diagnosed with the condition, or who would in principle meet the diagnostic criteria. Prevalence (e.g. of autism) does not necessarily indicate how many people have the condition: cases may go undetected due to factors such as low cultural awareness or limited availability of diagnostic services.


Prognosis

A prediction offered by a medical or other expert concerning the probable course and outcome of a disorder or condition.


Protodeclarative pointing

Protodeclarative pointing is the use of pointing to draw someone else's attention to an object or item of interest, thus enabling an individual to share their interest with another. Thus a child might point to a bird so that his mother will look at it too. Children on the autism spectrum tend not to use this form of pointing, though they may use protoimperative pointing to indicate an object or item that they want or desire, such as pointing to a biscuit to indicate they want to have it.


Psychological processes

Refers to the way the mind works to interpret information about the physical world and social world, and to respond appropriately. This includes perceptual processes such as recognising objects and events, and communicative process such as understanding language, perceiving and interpreting other people’s behaviour, including their gestures and facial expressions, and communicating both verbally and through one’s own behaviour.


Psychology

This is the scientific study of the way the mind (generally the human mind) works and how this dictates and influences behaviour. Processes investigated include communication, memory, thinking and emotion.


Psychometrics

Techniques that provide ways of measuring intelligence, language skills and other cognitive and behavioural capacities or traits.


Q

Quality of life

The general well-being of a person and how they experience their life in terms of comfort, happiness and fulfilment. Factors affecting quality of life include health, relationships, employment and finance.


Questionnaires

A questionnaire is a set of questions, often with multiple-choice answers or a scale (from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’ for instance) to be completed. It can be used to explore attitudes, preferences or personality traits; it may also be used as part of the diagnostic procedure to find out about a person’s behaviour. (See also surveys.)



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