Autism is a pervasive development disorder

An incurable disorder which delays the development of social interaction and communication skills.

Impaired communication

§  poor language skills

§  avoided of eye contact

§  lack of facial expressions

§  lack of joint attention

Impaired social interaction

§  doesn’t engage in physical contact

§  difficulty in forming relationships with others

§  doesn’t like sharing things with others

Impaired imagination

§  repetitive/routined behaviours

§  difficulty in imagining things that haven’t occurred

Joint attention

Where infants (9-15 months) start to share a reaction with another person, the child is interested in the object as well as another person’s interest in the object.

Autistic children have a lack of joint attention, resulting in impaired communication, impaired social interaction and impaired imagination.

Sigman et al

Aim- To investigate joint attention.

Method- Three groups of children were tested, clinically normal children, children with down’s syndrome and autistic children.

Children were observed in a playroom in the presence of their mothers. Different behaviours were recorded, such as showing or pointing at objects, staying close to the mother and looking and vocalising.

Results- The autistic children showed fewer instances of joint attention than the other groups of children.

Conclusion- Children with autism do not generally demonstrate behaviours involving joint attention




Biological explanation for autism

Neurological correlates explanation states that there is a correlation between abnormalities in the brain and symptoms of autism.

Frontal lobe

Responsible for planning of behaviours, control or behaviours and making judgments.

§  If damaged, could explain why autistic children have a preference for routine as their ability to plan is absent.

Temporal lobe

Responsible for memory aswell as emotional responses, language and speech production.

§  If damaged, could explain autistic savants aswell as communication problems.


Responsible for motor control and co-ordination.

§  If damaged, could explain poor motor co-ordination aswell as head banging.


Post-mortem studies

Studying the brain of an autistic individual after their death.


§  It’s unclear whether the abnormality’s in the brain are because of autism (head banging) or whether the abnormality’s cause autism.



PET-Glucose is injected into a person’s arm and carried by the blood to the brain. If a part of the brain is active, there will be a high blood flow to that area.


§  This method involves injecting radiation so quite dangerous when used on children.

MRI- This method uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce a 3D image of the brain.


§  No radiation or injections.





Genetic explanation for autism

The genetic explanation for autism suggests that autism can be carried through our genes.

Research has shown that there is a

§  0.6% chance of someone having a child with autism.

§  3-6% chance of someone having a second child with autism.

§  MZ twins have a 96% concordance.

§  DZ twins have a 50&


No comments have yet been made