The term “autism” originated at the beginning of the twentieth century and was coined by a Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler (Feinstein 5). Bleuler identified autism as a mode of thinking, opposing it to another mode: logical and realistic (Feinstein 6). Thus, the historical definition of autistic thinking, as suggested by Bleuler, is “not a pathology confined to a group of children who exhibited a withdrawal from other people and the external world” (Feinstein 6). For Bleuler, autistic thinking was a “normal mode of thinking” in children as well as adults (Feinstein 6). The psychiatrist believed that autism was employed in fantasies, dreams, pretense games, and schizophrenic delusions. Thus, Bleuler considered the ability to understand the alternatives to reality not as a primitive process but as a rather sophisticated one (Feinstein 6). Another historical definition of autism was suggested by Eugéne Minkowski who said that autism was “not a withdrawal to solitude or a morbid inclination to daydreaming, but a deficit in the basic, non-reflective attunement between the person and his world” (Feinstein 6).
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A basic definition of autism is given in the online magazine “Psychology Today.” Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is defined there as “a complex developmental disorder that affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills” (“Autism Spectrum Disorder”). The most typical features of ASD are impaired communication (verbal and non-verbal), limited and repetitive behavioral patterns, impaired social communication skills, and difficulty converting information from the senses (“Autism Spectrum Disorder”). In the DSM-5, ASD is an umbrella diagnosis covering four pervasive developmental conditions: childhood disintegrative disorder, Asperger’s disorder, autistic disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (“Autism Spectrum Disorder”). People with autism have a tendency to be distant and indifferent, and they cannot form an emotional connection with other individuals. Also, they have rather peculiar reactions to sensory experiences. Symptoms range from mild to severe in different patients. What concerns children with autism, they follow an atypical child development process. Some of them do not show any symptoms at birth and start demonstrating unusual behavior and the loss of social skills at the age of 18-36 months (“Autism Spectrum Disorder”).
In the current research, much attention is paid to the analysis of autism, its causes, and prospects of involving people suffering from this condition in different activities, which might help them to accommodate in the society. In their article, De Giacomo et al. investigate verbal communication skills and aggressive behavior in children with ASD (1). Scholars remark that behavior issues constitute a frequent problem in families whose children have autism (1). Moreover, aggressive behavior has an adverse impact on teachers and other students (De Giacomo et al. 1). De Giacomo et al. define autism as a childhood-onset neurodevelopmental disorder that is represented by “persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts and by restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities” (1). The persistence of aggression in ASD may lead to the absence of difficulty in verbal communication or the lack of abstraction. Such deficits result in the impossibility to demonstrate compassion and predict the behavior of oneself and others (De Giacomo et al. 1).
Narzisi et al. performed a case study focused on the identification of toddlers with ASD (1179). In their study, scholars assessed the specificity and sensitivity of the Child Behavior Check List 1S-5 which is one of the tools developed for recognizing toddlers with autism. The participants of the case study were 141 children: 47 diagnosed with ASD, 47 diagnosed with other psychiatric disorders (OPD), and 47 with typical development (TD) (Narzisi et al. 1181). All the participants were aged between 18 and 36 months. Scholars employed the one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) and logistic regression with odds ratio to analyze the capacity of the Child Behavior Check List 1S-5 to identify children aged 18-36 months subsequently diagnosed with an ASD (1181). The exclusion criteria included:
- focal neurological signs or neurological syndromes;
- crucial sensory damage (deafness, blindness, etc.);
- premature birth, epilepsy, anamnesis of birth asphyxia, or head injury;
- using psychotropic drugs;
- probable secondary agents of ASD regulated by DNA analysis or high-resolution karyotyping (Narzisi et al. 1181).
The case study was performed in accordance with the standards for good ethical practice. All parents signed informed consent prior to the study (Narzisi et al. 1183). The findings demonstrate that Withdrawn and Pervasive Developmental Problem scales are quite effective in making a distinction between the children with ASD and those with OPD and TD (Narzisi et al. 1185). The rise of the Withdrawn cluster of symptoms is considered to have a stable strength in identifying autism. Narzisi et al. remark that when there is a high score of the Withdrawn cluster, it is possible to regard it as an index of social problems peculiar to ASD rather than an affective disorder (1185). The case study performed by Narzisi et al. is a considerable contribution to the study of autism in general and behavioral problems in particular.
“Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Psychology Today, 2018.
De Giacomo, Andrea, et al. “Aggressive Behaviors and Verbal Communication Skills in Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Global Pediatric Health, vol. 3, 2016, pp. 1-5.
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Feinstein, Adam. A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
Narzisi, Antonio, et al. “Child Behavior Check List 1½–5 as a Tool to Identify Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Case-Control Study.” Research in Developmental Disabilities, vol. 34, 2013, 1179-1189.