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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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Glossary


Browse the glossary using this index

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S

Symptoms

Features or characteristics that may indicate a clinical problem or disorder. In some medical conditions (e.g. flu), symptoms may be feelings that the individual experiences and reports to a doctor. In other conditions, such as autism, an individual's symptoms are more likely to be atypical behaviours observed by others such as the individual's parent, or a clinician. Symptoms form the basis for formal diagnostic classifications.


Synapses

A small gap between two neurons where the transmission of signals takes place via neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that cross the gap.


Syndrome

A term denoting a characteristic combination of symptoms, usually assumed to be caused by a specific underlying disorder, even if the causal mechanism is not well understood. Many syndromes are named after the physicians credited with first reporting the association, hence Kanner's syndrome and Asperger syndrome. Autism is now considered more as a spectrum rather than specific syndromes.


Systemising

Systemising is defined by Baron-Cohen as the drive to analyse or construct systems, where a system is any domain that lends itself to rules predicting or explaining how the domain works. The precise scope of this idea is vague: it is usually related to subject matter such as science, engineering and maths, but other domains could also be defined in terms of systems and rules. Baron-Cohen proposes that people with autism have a cognitive profile characterised by a high level of systemising ability, together with limited empathising ability. (See also empathising, Empathy Quotient (EQ) and Systemising Quotient (SQ).)


Systemising Quotient (SQ)

A questionnaire-based measure of systemising devised by Baron-Cohen and colleagues. A person’s overall test score on the SQ is assumed to reflect their ability to systemise. Each member of a population can receive a low, high or average score. On average, females tend to score lowest whereas people on the autism spectrum generally have high scores, although there is also considerable overlap. (See also empathising, Empathising-systemising theory, and systemising)


T

TEACCH

Acronym for Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children, a ‘whole person’ intervention supporting many aspects of functioning, including learning, behaviour, social and communication needs, and applicable across different settings (at home, school, in respite services and other locations) as well as across the person’s lifespan. TEACCH aims to maximise an individual’s strengths, drawing on traits such as the need for structure and good visual memory.


Theories

A theory offers an explanation of how and why something occurs and may also identify the cause. Theories are derived from research findings and also inform the ongoing development of research.


Theory of Mind (ToM)

A person’s understanding of other people’s thoughts, knowledge, beliefs and feelings, including recognition that these may be different from their own. Also sometimes referred to as ‘mindreading’. Many people on the autism spectrum have difficulty with this.


Tower of Hanoi

A task in which a set of differently sized rings have to be transferred from one peg to another in the fewest moves but with certain constraints, such as not being able to place a larger ring on a smaller one. Used as a test of executive function.


Treatment as usual

A common procedure in a controlled intervention study where the participants who do not receive the intervention under evaluation receive a standard intervention or one that they have been receiving previous to the evaluation.



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