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A study of the use of nonverbal systems in the differential diagnosis of autistic, mentally retarded and fragile X individuals

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The problems that autistic individuals show in the areas of interpersonal relationships and language have been long recognized and are well documented. Nonverbal behaviors and their implications for overall affective and cognitive development have received far less scrutiny. The purposes of this paper are to investigate the significance of movement behaviors in the differential diagnosis of autism, to present a newly developed assessment tool and observational procedure for gathering data in nonverbal areas of concern and to illustrate appropriate statistical measures which can be used to determine whether there are specific nonverbal behaviors which distinguish autistic individuals from other groups of severely disabled persons. The results show that studies of nonverbal behaviors are important in that autistic persons show a variety of anomalies, but that one must be very selective in using nonverbal behaviors for differential diagnoses since individuals with other developmental disorders also exhibit deviations in a variety of movement areas. The number of problems and the degree to which they are exhibited suggest that dance/movement therapy is an appropriate intervention for several developmentally disabled populations.

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This work was supported in part by the National Institute of Mental Health grants MH 37513-01A1 and MH 38201-01.

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Wolf-Schein, E.G., Fisch, G.S. & Cohen, I.L. A study of the use of nonverbal systems in the differential diagnosis of autistic, mentally retarded and fragile X individuals. Am J Dance Ther 8, 67–80 (1985).

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