Multiple impairments in early childhood autism

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Abstract

Language, perceptual, motor, and behavioral abnormalities are compared in autistic, receptive aphasie, executive aphasie, partially blind and deaf children, those with Down's syndrome, and normal children. Similarities and differences between the language of receptive aphasic and autistic children are considered in detail. Results show that language functions in general, rather than just speech, are disturbed in autism. The difficulty of explaining the whole syndrome on the basis of any single abnormality is illustrated. An alternative hypothesis that a combination of language, perceptual, motor, and autonomic impairments underlies autistic behavior is postulated. Such a combination could have a single or multiple etiology. Isolated fragments of the full clinical picture frequently occur, either alone or in combination with different syndromes. Emphasis is placed on the need for detailed and systematic observation of behavior of autistic children.