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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A widely used brain imaging technique that passes magnetic currents harmlessly through the brain to reveal the structural anatomy, and how particular regions may be altered (e.g. larger or smaller than is typical) in conditions such as autism.


An intense response to overwhelming situations which can look like a temper tantrum. An autistic person may shout, cry or scream, kick, lash out or bite, or a combination of these, as a way to express their distress, stress or anxiety.

Mental states

Refers to a person’s beliefs, memories, desires, intentions and feelings.

Multiple-baseline study

A study, usually with a small number of participants, often in the same setting, who start the intervention after having been observed beforehand for differing lengths of time. For example one may start the intervention after 3 weeks, one after 5 weeks and one after 7 weeks. If each is seen to respond positively to the intervention this provides evidence that it is effective and the changes seen are not due to another factor.

Multiplex families

Families with more than one child/family member on the autism spectrum. The fact that autism quite commonly affects several family members provides strong evidence that genetic factors play a role in causing autism.

Multiplex Family

Families that have more than one Autistic person.


Changes in the sequence of units making up the genes in a person’s DNA. Sometimes parts of a gene may become duplicated, deleted or changed in other ways. Such genetic variation will affect the proteins that are coded for by the DNA, influencing how parts of the body, including the nervous system develop, with consequent effects on behaviour or traits.