Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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An approach which some have misleadingly claimed alleviates or cures autism by eliminating ‘excess toxins’ from the body. Described by the UK’s National Institution for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as harmful and to be avoided.


A term describing interventions which involve following the child's own interests and motivation as a means of encouraging interaction and learning. (See also adult-directed approaches.)


Structural units in all living cells, composed of long strands of DNA along which genes are located. (See also deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and genes.)


The psychological processes involved in thinking, learning, planning and problem-solving, and in the understanding and use of language.

Cognitive style

Characteristic strategies or preferences for thinking and processing information.


A medical term for the presence of one or more conditions or disorders alongside a primary condition. In autism, epilepsy is a common co-morbid condition.


The extent to which the same (or a similar) condition, characteristic or trait is present in both members of a pair of twins or siblings.


A sequence of items or entities running along a continuous scale such that differences between items are gradual rather than abrupt.

Control group

A group of participants in an experiment or other systematic study used as a standard against which others are measured. This could be a group who do not receive an intervention, or it could be a group who do not have autism.

Controlled study

A formal evaluation of an intervention, with more participants than a pilot study. Typically it would involve two groups of participants on the autism spectrum, matched for level of symptoms, age and IQ. One group receives the intervention and the other receives no intervention or treatment as usual. Comparing the groups’ skills and behaviours after the study permits efficacy of the intervention to be evaluated.

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