DescriptionPsychological research into autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has increased exponentially in the last two decades. Much of this work has been led by various theorists who claim to have identified processes that hold the key to understanding the condition. As a consequence, newcomers to the field feel that they have to opt for one or more of the competing approaches and to neglect the remainder as being in some way wrong. In fact, the different theoretical perspectives are just that - different points of view on the same phenomenon - each with its own insights to offer. This is not to say that understanding ASD in psychological terms is just a matter of choosing a perspective and that all perspectives are of equal value. Clearly they are not.
This book, in addition to providing an outline of what current perspectives have to offer, also provides a framework to help readers to decide which aspects of psychological research into ASD contribute to our understanding of the field and how these can be integrated in a way that enables research to be taken forward.
1. Identifying Autism: From Discrete Entity to Multidimensional Spectrum.
Early conceptions: the ‘autistic child’.
From discrete entity to spectrum of related conditions.
Diagnostic systems and instruments.
Dimensions versus entities: ‘lumping’ versus ‘splitting’.
2. Understanding Other Minds: Cognitive Approaches.
Understanding false belief: a specific mental module?
Understanding minds: a specific process or something else?
3. Understanding Other People: Emotion and Interaction.
Appraisal of emotion in others.
Understanding the directedness of behaviour.
Understanding others in autism: final conclusions.
4. Beyond Social Impairment: Difficulties with Executive Functions.
Implications of the executive dysfunction account for our understanding of ASD.
5. Building a Coherent Picture of the World.
Alternative explanations of WCC phenomena.
6. Attention and Perception.
Accounting for attentional difficulties.
7. Specific Aspects of Understanding: Faces, Concepts and Memory.
8. Psychology, Autism and the Brain.
Studies of brain size and structure.
Lesion-based models of autistic behaviour.
Theories of global brain dysfunction.
Brain impairments inferred from more basic psychological processes.
Assumptions about development in ASD: psychometrics, matching and developmental delay.
Developmental trajectories in ASD.
Developmental change in two psychological domains: theory of mind and executive functions.
Developmental theory and ASD.
10. Whence and Whither: Glimpses of the Tapestry, Paths Through the Jungle.
How far have we really come?
Stepping back to move forward? Emerging themes.