, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 11-29

Severe impairments of social interaction and associated abnormalities in children: Epidemiology and classification

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The prevalence, in children aged under 15, of severe impairments of social interaction, language abnormalities, and repetitive stereotyped behaviors was investigated in an area of London. A “socially impaired” group (more than half of whom were severely retarded) and a comparison group of “sociable severely mentally retarded” children were identified. Mutism or echolalia, and repetitive stereotyped behaviors were found in almost all the socially impaired children, but to a less marked extent in a minority of the sociable severely retarded. Certain organic conditions were found more often in the socially impaired group. A subgroup with a history of Kanner's early childhood autism could be identified reliably but shared many abnormalities with other socially impaired children. The relationships between mental retardation, typical autism, and other conditions involving social impairment were discussed, and a system of classification based on quality of social interaction was considered.