Psychology Term Paper


What makes children with autism different?

Key developmental domains of communication and social interaction are increasingly being shown to be divergent in autism from early infancy.
What do these differences look like?
What are the potential implications?
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Title: Comparing typical development and development in autism 

Children with autism suffer from various social attention impairments. Some of these impairments relate to social orientation, joint attention to other people’s distress, and their relationships to language ability (Hughes, 1996). However, attention to distress and social orienting relate indirectly to language with regard to their relationship with joint attention (Dawson et al, 2004). Dawson’s findings are critical in the clarification of the nature of impairments relating to social attention and how they relate to autism.

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According to Morgan, Maybery,& Durkin (2003), one of the primary cognitive deficit problems among children autism sufferers is a weak central coherence. This weakness is also thought to account for the theory of mind. Some of the factors that contribute to the prediction of autism include low verbal ability, weak central coherence, and poor joint attention (Morgan, Maybery, & Durkin, 2003).

            According to Williamset al (2001), the imitative disturbance is one of the symptoms of people with autism. Other symptoms include echolalia (mimicking) and the tendency to copy the actions of other people. Williams et al (2001) argue for the possibility of a neural basis for autism being found out.

            Today, autistic spectrum disorders continue to be recognized as a critical cause of social disability. Over the last decade, research on autism has continued to intensify. William et al (2001) suggest that the juxtaposition of psychological findings with the latest neurobiological discoveries offers a new model for a closer understanding of the social functions of people with autism-related disorders.

            Children with autism-related disorders have impairments in imaginative ability, social interaction and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior (Roeyers, Van Oost&Bothuyne 1998). The onset of autism can be noted even before a child is three years old. This condition is often heterogeneous with respect to both the clinical picture and cause. Children with autism may also be regarded as different with regard to association with different abnormalities such as mental handicaps, epilepsy, and other brain pathologies. This is the reason why it is often considered a dimensional and not a categorical disorder.

There are many key developmental, social interactions and communication domains that appear divergent in autism sufferers since early infancy (Baron-Cohen, Leslie &Frith, 1985). The divergence takes the form of joint attention, social orienting, and attention to other people’s distress. In its developmental mode, autistic children pathology indicates that very early impairments involving social attention end up depriving a child with autism of all social information input that is needed for proper infancy development. However, this deprivation can take many forms, which leads to divergent manifestations of autism.

In recent times, doctors have chosen to adopt the term ‘autism spectrum disorder’ in order to indicate that this disease comes with many related variants that vary widely in terms of severity although they share many characteristic symptoms (Jarrold, 2000). The chief diagnostic signs of the condition include lack of eye contact, social isolation, absence of empathy and poor capacity for language. There are many other less well-known symptoms that are evident among children suffering from autism.

The implications for the divergent manifestations of this condition are far-reaching. With regard to research, one of the implications of the diversity in symptoms of autism is a reference to the theory of mind. This theory is often used to explain in a standard form the appropriate mental correlates that can be used to determine the extent of perversion among children with autism.


Baron-Cohen, S. Leslie, A. &Frith, U. (1985) Does the autistic child have a `theory of mind’. Cognition, 21, 37-46.

Dawson, G., Toth, K.,  Abbott, R., Osterling, J., Munson, J., Estes, A. &Liaw, J. (2004) Early Social Attention Impairments in Autism: Social Orienting, Joint Attention, and Attention to Distress, Developmental Psychology, 40(2), 271–283.

Hughes C. (1996) Planning problems in autism at the level of motor control, Journal of Autism Development Disorder, 26, 99-107.

Jarrold, C. Butler, W.  Cottington, E. &Jiminez, F. (2000) Linking theory of mind and central coherence bias in autism and in the general population, Developmental Psychology, 36, 126–138.

Morgan, B., Maybery, M. & Durkin, K. (2003), Weak Central Coherence, Poor Joint Attention, and Low Verbal Ability: Independent Deficits in Early Autism, 39(4), 646–656.

Roeyers, H., Van Oost, P. &Bothuyne, S. (1998). Immediate imitation and joint attention in young children with autism, Development, and Psychopathology, 10, 441–450.

Williams, J., Whitenb, A.  Suddendorfc, T. &PerrettImitation, I. (2001) mirror neurons, and autism, Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 25, 28-295.

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