To my knowledge, there is no single volume on the neuropsychology of autism. Thus, the present book aims to accomplish just that, bringing together up-to-date information regarding the neuropsychology functions of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), as well as theoretical viewpoints by leaders in the field. This book is broken into three sections and offers a span of knowledge regarding ASD across 26 well-organized chapters.
Section 1 outlines the fundamental information about ASDs, including detailed descriptions of behavioral characteristics of ASDs, the developmental course of these symptoms, prevalence rates, and factors that determine prognosis. This section also covers differential diagnosis between disorders that are classified under the umbrella term Pervasive Developmental Disorders, as well as disorders that do not fall on the autism spectrum, but share similar symptoms or clinical presentations, such as Nonverbal learning Disabilities or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
A hot topic and one receiving much attention and focus of research is the genetic involvement in ASDs. Thus, a thorough and up-to-date overview is provided including extensive information regarding ASD-related syndromes, associated genes, and proportions of individuals with ASD, as well as related syndromes. Resources for the evaluation of genetic findings in autism and neurodevelopmental disorders are offered.
The first section continues with an in-depth description of the neuroanatomy, as well as the neurochemistry of ASDs, including methods and measures and as such sensitivities and constraints. Extensive information regarding what is presently known about the differences in anatomy and neurochemistry make-up between those identified as having an ASD and those without is presented. Highlighted are the challenges of clinical investigation in this population.
Finally, the first section summarizes major current neuropsychological theories of ASD, specifically theories regarding executive functioning, information processing, social motivation, and social cognition and introduces a number of newer psychological theories in autism, including mirror neurons, connectivity, the use of animal models, neural network models, and arousal.
Section 2 offers extensive information regarding various neuropsychological functions of ASDs. Language impairments are a hallmark feature of ASDs and are often an area requiring critical and intensive intervention. In-depth information is offered regarding language, including prominent theories, clinical implications, treatments, and prognosis based on language abilities.
Memory and learning are inseparable, as this book points out, memory atypicalities will affect how and what people with ASDs learn, which in return impacts an individual's ability to process and respond to external stimuli. Interestingly, children with ASDs demonstrate deficits in some aspects of their memory while certain aspects of memory are intact. The second section provides the reader with a useful description of the continuum of memory abilities and deficits seen in people with high-functioning autism versus individuals with low-functioning autism across the various types of memory.
The often confusing nature of attention in individuals with ASDs is also explored in the second section. A valuable dissection of attention into discrete types is provided, followed by an outline of appropriate assessments to measure these different types of attention. Executive functioning, which has received a lot of attention in recent years, is also highlighted in this section, as well as a practical description of what constitutes executive functioning, assessments of these skills, and a summary of executive functioning in the broader autism phenotype.
Positive motor findings and lack thereof, as well as motor learning and resulting implications in individuals with ASD, are touched on in conjunction with sensory functions. A nice summary on social cognition is provided to readers, including valuable information on eye-tracking studies, functional connectivity for face processing, and neuroscience approaches to theory of mind.
Imitation is indisputably recognized as an important factor in social development; as such an entire chapter focuses on the deficits observed in this critical skill in individuals with an ASD. An interesting debate on whether we imitate others because we understand them or if we understand others because we imitate them is offered.
Cognitive abilities of those with ASD are often a necessary and beneficial piece of assessment and treatment planning. Thus, one chapter's focal point is the distribution of cognitive abilities in individuals with ASD, including sex differences, predictability and stability of IQ, the relationship of IQ with autism symptom severity, and the role of IQ in the search for the genetic cause of ASD.
Section 3 starts off with a chapter on systemizing and emphasizing, including examples of systemizing in low-functioning versus high-functioning individuals. Items from the Empathy Quotient and Systemizing Quotient are provided for the reader to review. Moreover, Simon Baron-Cohen's controversial extreme male brain theory of autism is highlighted.
An important summary from a wide range of resources regarding repetitive movements and arousal is provided for the reader. This is an area that does not receive the same attention given to the areas of communication and social interactions. Given the paucity of empirical and theoretical interest around the topic of repetitive movements and ASD, this is an interesting and valuable chapter.
The impact of early brain overgrowth and considerations for treatment is reviewed. An invaluable and user friendly table summarizes the most up-to-date information regarding the characteristics and results of 23 studies published which have included analyses of interregional correlations in brain response using functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography.
The book ends on a very important note of where we go from here. The editor, Deborah Fein, and two colleagues offer a discussion on the future directions in ASD research, which is both interesting and thought provoking.
This book is an excellent resource for any professional working with individuals on the autism spectrum. It is well organized, easy to read, accurate, and offers a wide range of viewpoints. Experts in the field have offered insights into their areas of expertise, as well as summarized current research and theories. Overall, The Neuropsychology of Autism is well written, well organized, and offers the reader a comprehensive, up-to-date resource regarding the many different pieces that make up the puzzle that is autism.