About Autism

Autism spectrum conditions affect at least one in a hundred people. The causes are still unknown but everyone agrees that there are genetic risk factors and that in interaction with biological environmental factors they affect the development of the brain. Autism can be recognised in behaviour from the second to third year of life.

The core features are Impairments in social interaction and communication, as well as repetitive and restricted behaviour. In addition there are other features which are very variable from case to case. For example, learning disability is seen in about 50% of the cases. Among those with moderate or severe learning disability challenging behaviour is common.

About Asperger syndrome

Asperger syndrome is a milder form of autism without language delay and with good intellectual abilities. Apart from the usually high language proficiency, the key signs and symptoms are very similar to those in high functioning autism.

Find out more about basic facts on autism spectrum disorders in this book, translated into Danish in 2010. It is a very short and accessible introduction to autism, a book that might be read by an interested teenager.

About Talent and Autism

One of the most startling aspects of this social-communication disorder is the high rate of special, or savant, skills. Around 10% of people with autism are thought to have a striking skill in music, art, calculation, or memory. So why might people with severe social-communication impairments be predisposed to develop perfect pitch, photographic-like memory, or lightning calculation?

Autism and Talent, edited by Francesca Happé and Uta Frith, contains an interesting collection of papers on the fascinating topic of talent in autism.

Extraordinary talent remains one of the big unexplained puzzles, which will only be solved by a true collaboration between sciences and humanities. This special issue follows a Discussion Meeting on Autism and Talent under the joint auspices of the British Academy and Royal Society. Contributors from psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience, history and sociology explore aspects ranging from the history, origin and prevalence of exceptional talent to its basis in the brain, from cognitive theories to the representation of talent and autism in biography and fiction. The papers in this issue show some remarkable convergence of ideas: A detail focused processing style may predispose to talent; the incidence of special skills may be higher than previously thought; there are tangible practical benefits from fostering talent in autism. Some of the challenging questions addressed in this special issue include: Are great artists fundamentally different from the rest of us? Is there a price to pay for exceptional ability in one domain? What is the role of practice? Could we all become savants?

The introduction by Francesca Happé and Uta Frith “The beautiful otherness of the autistic mind” is available under ‘References‘.

Autism’s first child

Here is the story of Donald Gray Triplett, 77 years old, who was psychiatrist Leo Kanner’s first case described in his 1943 landmark paper. The piece “Autism’s first child“ in the Atlantic Magazine by John Donvan and Caren Zucker is very interesting historically. It reveals the contribution of Donald’s parents to Kanner’s insights. Donald today leads a remarkably good life, is accepted by the community and plays a daily round of golf.

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