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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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Browse the glossary using this index

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See broader autism phenotype.

Behaviour modification

The application of principles of learning and conditioning to influence or improve a person's behaviour, by eradicating “maladaptive behaviours” and promoting the learning of new ones through reinforcement of behaviour. Based on the work of B.F. Skinner, and pioneered in the autism field by Ivar Lovaas.

Biological explanation

This suggests that the causes of a condition are rooted in a person’s biological make-up, that is, their genes and the structure and function of the brain and other components of the nervous system.


In experiments and observational studies, this refers to the procedure in which the researcher evaluating the behaviour does not know which participants are in the experimental group and which are in the control group.

Body language

The means by which information about thoughts, feelings or attitudes is communicated non-verbally, either consciously or non-consciously. Includes facial expressions, gesture and posture, as well as the use of space.



Brain imaging

A number of techniques that generate computerised images of the living brain, used to investigate structural and functional characteristics. Includes MRI and fMRI.

Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP)

Milder manifestations of traits characteristic for autism in relatives of people with autism.



Acronym for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, services within the UK National Health Service that assess and treat young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties. Usually a multi-disciplinary team including psychologists, psychiatrists and other specialists.

Candidate genes

A gene whose function, or location on a chromosome, suggests that it might be associated with a condition or disorder.

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