People talk to each other with their eyes, don't they? What are they saying? --Asperger's syndrome subject (quoted in Carter 1998:141)
Communications disorder. 1. A related family of conditions, from producing repetitive body movements to showing a special gift for drawing, music, or math, marked by a lack of empathy and an extreme inability to send and receive normal nonverbal cues. 2. An autistic person may fail to use socially normal patterns of eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures, and may be unable to use normal speech. 3. An autistic individual may also display an intense interest in arranging, organizing, or hoarding a restricted range of physical objects.
Usage: When kept from handling a favored object, an autistic person
may yell, become aggressive, or engage in property destruction. ". . . more than
anything, autism is a defect of communication--an inability to share feelings,
beliefs and knowledge with other people" (Carter 1998:141).
Asperger's Syndrome. Like autism, AS includes problems in social behavior, along with abnormal responses to the environment. Unlike autism, however, cognitive and communicative skills may be relatively normal, and verbal skills are strong. AS individuals show an unusually restricted interest in specific artifacts, objects, or life forms, such as bus schedules, videotape cassettes, and frogs.
Behavior. "Their language skills are often limited, and they find it
difficult to initiate or sustain conversations. They also frequently exhibit an
intense preoccupation with a single subject, activity or gesture" (Rodier
Embryology. In the first 20 to 24 days of gestation, a defect in the gene HOXA1 may be responsible a. for the physical appearance of the mouth, lower jaw, and ears, and b. for the brain stem anomalies (see below, Neuro-note) of autism (Rodier 2000:59).
Facial recognition. According to UCSD neuroscientist Eric Courchesne and colleagues, deep-brain scans show that the fusiform gyrus, which mediates facial recognition in non-autistic children, fails to activate when autistic children view pictures of faces (LaFee 2002).
Genetics. Regions of four chromosomes--2, 7, 16, and 17 (7 is known to be implicated in many language disorders)--may be linked to autism, according to recent findings of a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study (Anonymous (2001K).
Physical appearance. 1. Autistic children produce
few facial expressions, though they may exhibit jaw-droop. 2. People with autism ". .
. have often been described not only as normal in appearance but as unusually
attractive [perhaps due to a diminutive lower jaw and chin; see Facial
Beauty]. They are certainly normal in stature, with normal-to-large
heads" (Rodier 2000:60). 3. "The corners of his mouth are low
compared with the center of his upper lip, and the top of his ears flop over
[and are 'lower than normal' with 'an almost square shape'] . . ." (Rodier
Psychiatry. "a) marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction" (diagnostic criteria for 299.00 AUTISTIC DISORDER, DSM IV).
Neuro-notes I. In an autistic person, the brain stem is shorter, the
facial nerve nucleus is smaller, and the superior olive (an auditory relay station)
may be missing entirely (Rodier 2000:58). The amygdala, hippocampus, and cerebellum are smaller, as
well (LaFee 2002).
Neuro-notes II. Mirror neurons: Jonah Lehrer: "How might reduced mirror neuron activity explain the symptoms of autism? And has there been any progress on this front since 2006?" Marco Iacoboni: "Patients with autism have [a] hard time understanding the mental states of other people; this is why social interactions are not easy for these patients. Reduced mirror neuron activity obviously weakens the ability of these patients to experience immediately and effortlessly what other people are experiencing, thus making social interactions particularly difficult for these patients" (source: "The Mirror Neuron Revolution: Explaining What Makes Humans Social," July 1, 2008, Jonah Lehrer interview with Marco Iacoboni in Scientific American [http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-mirror-neuron-revolut; accessed Dec. 28, 2012]).
See also ANGELMAN SYNDROME, NONVERBAL LEARNING DISORDER.
Copyright 1998 - 2013 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal
Drawing of "Showing My Nonverbal Side" by my son Aaron Huffman (copyright 2012 by Aaron H. Huffman)