Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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Understanding autism

1 The psychology of autism: explaining social characteristics

Psychological theories of autism seek to explain the characteristic behaviour and thinking style in terms of underlying psychological processes, that is, how autistic people process information about other people and the environment. Some theories have a primary focus on either the social traits or the non-social traits, so these theories are not mutually exclusive. Further theories have tried to bring the social and non-social areas of difference together within a single framework.

We will start with the theory known, confusingly, as ‘Theory of Mind’ theory, which is probably the most influential explanation of the social challenges in autism.


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