Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 409-424

First online:

Infantile autism: A syndrome of multiple primary deficits?

  • Robert GoodmanAffiliated withInstitute of Child Health

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Attempts to explain infantile autism in terms of just one underlying neurological or psychological deficit may be misguided. As in the case of many neurological syndromes, autism may involve multiple functional deficits due to multiple coexistent neurological deficits. Comparison with Asperger's syndrome and the developmental dysphasias suggests that the autistic syndrome results from the coexistence of at least two distinct constellations of functional impairments: deficits in mechanical language skills, as in the developmental dysphasias; and deficits in social relatedness, play, and nonverbal communication, as in Asperger's syndrome. Possible neurological underpinnings are considered, including the relative contribution of the two cerebral hemispheres. Implications for etiology and research are discussed.