What is Autism?

A pervasive developmental disorder, autism affects information processing in multiple ways. Many people with autism have difficulties with social interactions and communication, sensory deficits, and poor motor coordination. Autistic people often have restricted interests and engage in repetitive behaviors.

Because autism's symptoms vary greatly, it's said to exist on a spectrum, and is increasingly referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder. (Asperger's is a condition often referred to as "high functioning" autism.) Some people with autism have low intelligence while others are quite intelligent.

Autism usually manifests by age two. It affects far more males than females. The frequency of diagnosis has surged over the past 20 years; it is not clear whether the incidence is truly increasing, whether experts are more alert to it, or whether the diagnosis has shifted to include lesser degrees of impairment. No one knows for sure what causes autism, but numerous studies link it to advanced maternal and/or paternal age at conception increasing the risk of direct genetic mutations or of factors that influence the expression of genes in he developing brain.

Reports implicating mercury-containing vaccines have proved baseless, although there is some evidence that environmental toxins may play a role. Some research suggests that autism reflects an "extreme male brain," because people with the condition often have an obsession with details and systematizing but are low on empathic ability. There is no cure for autism, although some symptoms may ease over the years.

Recent posts on Autism

"drinking water"/darwin Bell/CC BY 2.0

Finding the "Why" of a Special-Needs Child's Behavior

By Barb Cohen on February 23, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
Behavior is a form of communication, and more often than not, especially in young children, it is not communicating a desire to be non-compliant or troublesome.

Why Not Circumcise Your Boy? Risk for Autism

By Darcia Narvaez Ph.D. on February 19, 2017 in Moral Landscapes
New research raises new questions.
Erik Hans Krause in employ of WPA/PD-US-not renewed

"Refrigerator Mothering" Is Dead but the Blame Game Lives On

By Barb Cohen on February 16, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
The mother—and now the father too—are still suspect. Suspected of what? Nobody knows for sure, but whatever it is, we are expected to defend ourselves against it.

Early Brain Over-Growth Is Indicative of Autism as Predicted

The imprinted brain theory links brain growth to autism, and a new study confirms the association.

Data, Not Ideology (Part 2)

By Amy S.F. Lutz on February 16, 2017 in Inspectrum
Instead of pushing ideologically-based options, why aren't policy-makers investing in evidence-based approaches to increasing happiness in the severely cognitively disabled?
"Brain Clock"/bzztbomb/CC BY-NC 2.0

Autism, ADHD, and Executive Functioning: Parenting Insights

By Barb Cohen on February 09, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
We have tried visual strategies; we have tried planning discussions; we have tried scripts' we have tried first/then; we have tried IEP goals; and we have tried threats.

What “Counts” for Autism Has Been Dropping: Is That Good?

By David Rettew M.D. on February 08, 2017 in ABCs of Child Psychiatry
Compared to decades past, the diagnosis of autism now encompasses many more children with “milder” behaviors. This likely underlies much of autism’s apparent increase in rate.
"La Mama de los Politos"/Jorge Elias/CC BY 2.0

Incubating a Political Conscience

By Barb Cohen on February 01, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
Figuring out when asserting yourself reflects courage and when it reflects imprudence takes, for many of us, a lifetime.

Lessons From Luke Skywalker

By Dean Olsher MA, MT-BC on January 26, 2017 in A Sound Mind
It is a gift to have a common intergenerational reference that embodies the hero’s journey in the character of Luke Skywalker.
Abraham Lincoln/CC BY SA 3.0

Abraham Lincoln Tops List of Famous Jewish Swimmers!

By Barb Cohen on January 23, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
"Famous people with autism" lists are not created primarily to motivate our children. They exist to motivate us adults to adjust our own beliefs about autism.

Ideology, Not Data

By Amy S.F. Lutz on January 22, 2017 in Inspectrum
Some disability advocates and policy makers want to force adults with I/DD into small, dispersed residences. But studies actually suggest size is not the determining factor.

Opposite Genetic Profiles of Autism vs. Schizophrenia

Although both autism and schizophrenia feature symptomatic communication difficulties, genetic profiling reveals them to be opposites as proposed by the diametric model.
"Johnathan Meath as Santa Clause"/Jonathan Meath/CC BY-SA 2.5

Learning to Tell a Lie

By Barb Cohen on January 12, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
Lying through your teeth requires more social awareness than most of us appreciate.

No, the Mercury in Vaccines Does Not Cause Autism

By Jordan Gaines Lewis, Ph.D. on January 12, 2017 in Brain Babble
There is no evidence to suggest that the vaccine preservative thimerosal is dangerous, nor that young children's bodies "can't handle" current recommended immunization schedules.

Autism and Screen Time: Special Brains, Special Risks

By Victoria L. Dunckley M.D. on December 31, 2016 in Mental Wealth
Is your gut telling you that your child with autism has too much screen time? Here are 11 reasons why ASD kids are more vulnerable to screen time effects, including addiction.

117 Autistic Children and Adults Who Died Deserve Better

By Amy S.F. Lutz on December 20, 2016 in Inspectrum
Legislation targeting wandering behavior in the developmentally disabled is controversial, but it shouldn't be. Here's everything opponents got wrong about Kevin and Avonte's Law.

“Obese” Mothers and Autism: Not As Simple As It Seems

Maternal BMI is a simplistic measure—particularly when related to the complex issue of the cause of autism.

Autism and Creativity

By Barb Cohen on December 18, 2016 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
Autism is associated with rigid thinking, restricted interests, and a literal interpretation of speech and behavior. How could a person with these traits possibly be creative?
James Coplan, MD

Perfectionism, Part 2

Do you have gremlins below decks, countermanding the captain's orders?

Hormones and Brain Regions Behind Eye Contact and Empathy

Clues to the hormonal and brain correlates of eye contact and empathy have been provided by studies of people with autistic symptoms.
"Wish List"/Sam and Barb Cohen

A Wish to Be an Aspie

By Barb Cohen on December 11, 2016 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
If your child needs the space to get up and walk around the classroom, what difference does it make if that need arises from AD/HD or ASD?

Gray & White Matter MRI Opposite in Autistics vs. Psychotics

Brain-imaging reveals that white and gray matter in autistic brains vary oppositely to schizophrenic brains, suggesting a new diagnostic tool only explained by the diametric model.

When Autism Parents Are Hesitant to Share the Diagnosis

By Darren Sush Psy.D., BCBA-D on December 05, 2016 in All the Pieces
How inappropriate speculation related to Donald Trump’s son, highlights the concerns of many parents of children with autism about how and when to share their child’s diagnosis.

Special-Needs Parenting and the Lowerarchy: Part Two

By Barb Cohen on December 04, 2016 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
The lowerarchy is more than a boundary; it is an edifice of alternating comfort and despair, always at the expense of other people and their children.
Looking downward/Barb Cohen

The Lowerarchy of Special-Needs Parenting

By Barb Cohen on November 27, 2016 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
Instead of using the rhetoric of “better than,” we shift to “not as bad-off as,” as in “my kid is not as bad-off as yours. "We’ve created a lowerarchy.

The Diametrics of Personal Space: Autism vs. Schizophrenia

New research into the sense of personal space.

The Man in the Moon: Faces and Autism

By Robert J King Ph.D. on November 23, 2016 in Hive Mind
A new study into autism reveals something of what it is like to experience the world this way, and offers a possible early test of the condition.

Prehistoric Languages… and Prehistoric Minds? Part II

The linguistic mind of our great, great [...] great grandparents
"Copenhagen broken bike"/Jens Cramer/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

"Mom, Am I Disabled?"

By Barb Cohen on November 18, 2016 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
Identifying a person as disabled entails locking that person into a world of very limited expectations. Having a disability describes all of us.

How Does Brain Symmetry Influence the Workings of Your Mind?

By Christopher Bergland on November 18, 2016 in The Athlete's Way
Is symmetry between the 'left brain-right brain' a good thing? It depends. New research suggests that a blend of symmetry and asymmetry between various brain regions may be ideal.