“Autistic-like traits”

“There is evidence that the discrete boundaries imposed by DSM and ICD-10 are not always respected by the conditions described. For instance Gillberg (1983) wondered whether a ‘common biochemical disturbance’ may cause ASC in young males and anorexia nervosa in young girls, and recently evidence has been found of weak central coherence in anorexia (C. Lopez et al., 2008; Southgate, Tchanturia, & Treasure, In press). Depression is often comorbid with autism (e.g., Ghaziuddin, Ghaziuddin, & Greden, 2002). DSM warns clinicians not to confuse Schizophrenia and Asperger Disorder as aspects of the conditions are quite similar. Given this overlap between conditions, it is unavoidable for measures of ‘autistic’ traits to detect traits associated with conditions other than ASC. […] There seems to be no shortage of continuums, overlapping and distinct, within and between typical and atypical development and clinical and non-clinical conditions of existence.”

“… I would argue in favour of defence of the label ‘autistic-like traits’ as merely shorthand for the class of traits which are of relevance to a study of ASC, so long as it is emphasised that there is overlap between conditions, for instance between ASC, psychosis, and anorexia. As more is known about the purer dimensions of importance, then it becomes easier to move instead towards discussion of these.”

(From here.)

Autistic superiority

A blog posting by Michelle Dawson, in which she lists researchers who publish data on people with autism who are superior to neurotypicals on some task, reminded me of a quote I’d saved from a BBS commentary paper by Gernsbacker, Dawson, and Mottron (2006):

“Quite compellingly, each of these statistically significant demonstrations of autistic superiority is labeled by its authors as a harmful dysfunction. Autistics’ superior block-design performance is labeled “weak central coherence,” symptomatic of dysfunctional “information processing in autism” (Shah & Frith 1993, p. 1351). Autistics’ superior performance on embedded figures tests is considered “consistent with the cognitive-deficit theory proposed by Hermelin and O’Connor (1970) … due to a central deficiency in information processing” (Shah & Frith 1983, p. 618). Autistics’ superior recognition memory performance is attributed to deleteriously “enhanced attention to shallow aspects of perceived materials” (Toichi et al. 2002, p. 1424); their superior sentence comprehension is described as being “less proficient at semantically and syntactically integrating the words of a sentence” (Just et al. 2004, p. 1816); their superior imperviousness to memory distortions is explained by “representations in the semantic network [that] may be associated in an aberrant manner” (Beversdorf et al. 2000, p. 8736); and their superior resistance to misleading prior context is attributed to their perception being “less conceptual” (Ropar & Mitchell 2002, p. 652).”

Gernsbacker, M.A., Dawson, M., and Mottron. L. (2006). Autism: Common, heritable, but not harmful. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 29, 413-414.

Edited to add: hadn’t clicked that the Dawson in the author list is the blog’s author! (She is.)