Autism: An Introduction to Psychological Theory by Francesca Happé

By Francesca Happé

This identify is meant for complex undergraduate and masters point scholars in psychology; expert medical, developmental and academic psychologists; common practitioners and others with a unique curiosity in childrens; careworkers; and fogeys of autistic teenagers.

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Extra info for Autism: An Introduction to Psychological Theory

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Chapter 6 considers the advantages and drawbacks of some alternative psychological theories of autism. Are autistic individuals just like 3-year-olds? False belief tasks, such as the Sally-Ann test, have become important in the study of autism. However, such tasks are also used with normally developing children, to explore the development of social understanding in the preschool years. From Wimmer & Perner (1983) onwards, most researchers have found that it is not until the age of 4 years that the normally developing child passes standard false belief tasks.

In addition, as mentioned in Chapter 5, theories of autism must steer a course between explaining too little—in effect merely describing features—and explaining too much. People with autism show a strikingly uneven profile of abilities, and show islets of unimpaired or even superior skills which require explanation just as much as do the striking handicaps. The challenge then is to propose a psychological deficit significant 46 DOES FAILURE REFLECT INABILITY TO MENTALIZE? enough to cause the severe impairments of autism, and specific enough to allow areas of preserved functioning.

Nor is it clear why a failure to disengage from the object should lead to incorrect response in the “true belief” task of 48 DOES FAILURE REFLECT INABILITY TO MENTALIZE? Leslie & Frith (1988), where the child is required to point to one of the actual locations of the object(s). Recent studies by Leekam & Perner (1991), Leslie & Thaiss (1992) and Charman & Baron-Cohen (1992), discussed in Chapter 5, show that children with autism are not impaired at answering questions about a non-current state of the world—as portrayed in a now-out-of-date photograph or drawing.

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