PSYB2 Autism

Descriptions, theories and therapies for autism

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  • Created on: 18-04-10 18:23
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PSYB 2 ­ Revision
Pervasive developmental disorder ­ It is a disorder of the brain that stays with you all your life.
Starting at a very young age.
A syndrome ­ A disorder that consists of a set of symptoms that are not present in the sufferer by
chance but occur together because they have a common origin.
Joint attention indicates an intention to socially interact with someone.
CHAT (the Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) is a test to diagnose early autism.
Echolalia is the repeating of words or phrases in a meaningless manner.
Idiosyncratic use of language is language that makes sense to the sufferer but not to anyone else.
Autistic savant - Autistic person with an extraordinary ability in a particular field.
Islet of ability ­ A superior talent in a particular task e.g. learning names or numbers.
Triad of impairment
The triad of impairment consists of 3 areas: Social interaction impairment, Communication impairment
and restricted repertoire of activities and interests. To be diagnosed the child must have 2 symptoms
from SI and 1 each from the other 2 impairments and 2 more from any before the age of 3.
Social interaction impairment ­ Lack of eye contact, posture and facial expressions used in most
interactions. Do not engage in sharing.
Communication impairment ­ Delay in or lack of development in speech. echolaic and idiosyncratic
use of language. Lack of spontaneous make believe play.
Restricted repertoire of activities and interests ­ Inflexible routines and rituals, fascination or
abnormally intense obsession with a narrow range of interests and activities, Repetitive motor
Early Psychological explanation
Cold parenting and the "refrigerator mother" hypothesis
The theory was proposed by Kanner who believed that autism was caused by unresponsive mothers.
Bettelheim proposed that autism is due to early interactions with parents. Lack of interaction from
central figures would mean that they would not develop autonomy. Autonomy develops when a child
becomes aware that their thoughts and actions influence the environment. Having a sense of
autonomy strengthens the ego which leads to the child developing a positive self esteem.
There is no evidence to support the theory. Cox et al showed that parents of autistic children are no
less warm or less responsive than other parents. McAdoo and De Myer found no significant
difference in the personality traits of normal and autistic children's parents.

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Cause and effect. Parents behave differently to autistic children. Is this the effect or the cause of
Biological explanation
Neurological correlates and neuro-imaging
The studies attempt to demonstrate a relationship between structural abnormalities and Autism.
PET scans ­ positron emission tomography. Small radioactive isotopes injected into the arm. PET
scanner detects radioactivity in brain as compound accumulates in different regions of the brain.
SPECT scans ­ Single photon emission computed tomography.…read more

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DZ twins should have the same concordance rate as normal siblings (3-6%) as they are no more
similar genetically. However in some studies they show that the concordance rate is higher. This
suggests that there are some environmental influences on autism.
The biological approach has been criticised for being reductionist. As it only takes into account
genetics and neurochemistry and overlooks psychological, environmental and social factors that may
play a part.…read more

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In 1996, Hapner used the Titchner Illusion to demonstrate that normal people perceive the middle
circle on the right to be smaller than the middle circle on the left. People with autism perceive them
as the same size. She explained this by suggesting that normal people use global processing (they
use the context of the other circles). Whereas autistic sufferers used local processing so completed
the task is completed successfully.
It explains the restrictive and repetitive symptoms but not social and communication impairment.…read more

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Behaviour modification therapy uses positive
reinforcement to treat autism.
Applied Behavioural Analysis
Applied behavioural analysis is a popular treatment for autism. It is behaviour modification treatment
that uses reinforcement and shaping to improve selected behaviour. Behaviour in autistic children is
analysed and particular behaviour is targeted for treatment. ABA is objective and improvement is
measurable and such interventions result in positive behaviour changes.
Lovaas pioneered an ABA therapy called discrete trial training.…read more

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Behaviour shaping is very time consuming but with perseverance
and parental involvement it does bring success.
Music therapy ­ Christie and Wimpory have developed Communication Therapy with Synchronised
Music. The therapy is designed to train the autistic child in turn taking which is crucial to
communicating in any social interaction. A musician plays different instrument synchronised with any
communication interactions between therapist and child. The child learns to associate their turn to
interact with the sound of an instrument.…read more


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