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Autistic people, they felt, had no true concept of, or feeling for, other minds, or even of their own; they had, in the jargon of cognitive psychology, no “theory of mind.” However, this is only one hypothesis among many; no theory, as yet, encompasses the whole range of phenomena to be seen in autism.
Kanner and Asperger were still, in the nineteen-seventies, pondering the syndromes they had delineated more than thirty years earlier, and the foremost workers of today have all spent twenty years or more considering them.
Most people—and, indeed, most physicians—if asked about autism, summon up a picture of a profoundly disabled child, with stereotyped movements, perhaps head-banging; rudimentary language; almost inaccessible: a creature for whom very little future lies in store.
Its incidence is about one in a thousand, and it occurs throughout the world, its features remarkably consistent even in extremely different cultures.
It is often not recognized in the first year of life, but tends to become obvious in the second or third year.
(Bernard Rimland’s 1964 text, “Infantile Autism,” played an important part here.)That the disposition to autism is biological is no longer in doubt, nor the increasing evidence that it is, in some cases, genetic.
Genetically, autism is heterogeneous—it is sometimes dominant, sometimes recessive. The genetic form may be associated, in the affected individual or the family, with other genetic disorders, such as dyslexia, attention-deficit disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or Tourette’s syndrome. This was first realized in the nineteen-sixties, with the epidemic of rubella, when a large number of babies exposed to this prenatally went on to develop autism.
The ultimate understanding of autism may demand both technical advances and conceptual ones beyond anything we can now even dream of.
The picture of “classical infantile autism” is a formidable one.
Autism as a subject touches on the deepest questions of ontology, for it involves a radical deviation in the development of brain and mind.
Our insight is advancing, but tantalizingly slowly.
It remains unclear whether the so-called regressive forms of autism—with sometimes abrupt losses of language and social behavior in two- to four-year-olds who had previously been developing relatively normally—are genetically or environmentally caused.
Autism may be a consequence of metabolic problems (such as phenylketonuria) or mechanical ones (such as hydrocephalus).
But though there may indeed be a devastating picture at the age of three, autistic youngsters, contrary to expectations, may go on to develop fair language, a modicum of social skills, and even high intellectual achievements; they may develop into autonomous human beings, capable of a life that may at least appear full and normal—even though, beneath it, there may remain a persistent, and even profound, autistic singularity.Tags: Adult Dating, affair dating, sex dating