Sunday, May 18, 2008

Underestimating children with autism: part III

Several talks here at IMFAR suggest that some autistic deficits may not be as broad as they initially appear.  For example:

1. A talk by C. Keysers (University Medical Center, Groningen) discusses the connection between mimicking facial expressions and feeling empathy, and reports an empirical finding that people with autism can mimic facial expressions, but less rapidly that non-autistics--implying a delay in facial processing. This delay, Keyser suggests, brings broad consequences to social interaction. Broad consequences, but a very specific delay.

2. A talk by B. Lopez (University of the West, England) suggests that apparent Executive Function delays in cognitive planning and flexibility may instead be consequences of problems with working memory, and social-skills related difficulties in understanding directions. Lessen the load on working memory, and make the directions clearer, and autistics do as well as neurotypicals; sometimes even better.

If only we could give people with autism--particularly children in the classroom--a little more time to process things, some prompts for working memory, and clearer instructions...

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