Changing perceptions: The power of autism

University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Nature (Impact Factor: 41.46). 11/2011; 479(7371):33-5. DOI: 10.1038/479033a
Source: PubMed


Recent data -- and personal experience -- suggest that autism can be an
advantage in some spheres, including science, says Laurent Mottron.

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Available from: Laurent Mottron, Aug 25, 2014
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    • "Social deficits are characterized by difficulty in understanding others' mental status, including the recognition of emotional expressions through voices [1], [2]. Sensory dysfunction includes abnormalities in auditory processing, indicative of hyposensitivity or hypersensitivity to sounds [3], [4]. Aberrant attention typically shifts orientation from social to nonsocial stimuli [5]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) are characterized by heterogeneous impairments of social reciprocity and sensory processing. Voices, similar to faces, convey socially relevant information. Whether voice processing is selectively impaired remains undetermined. This study involved recording mismatch negativity (MMN) while presenting emotionally spoken syllables dada and acoustically matched nonvocal sounds to 20 subjects with ASC and 20 healthy matched controls. The people with ASC exhibited no MMN response to emotional syllables and reduced MMN to nonvocal sounds, indicating general impairments of affective voice and acoustic discrimination. Weaker angry MMN amplitudes were associated with more autistic traits. Receiver operator characteristic analysis revealed that angry MMN amplitudes yielded a value of 0.88 (p<.001). The results suggest that people with ASC may process emotional voices in an atypical fashion already at the automatic stage. This processing abnormality can facilitate diagnosing ASC and enable social deficits in people with ASC to be predicted.
    PLoS ONE 07/2014; 9(7):e102471. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0102471 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "While most of the 47 research and the public's awareness have been focused on 48 the impairments in ASD, some scientists (e.g. Mottron 49 2011), non-profit companies and many individuals living 50 with autism are actively fighting this one-sided view. This 51 perspective has been featured in the popular press, most 52 recently, for example, in The New York Times (Cook: The 53 Autism advantage, Nov. 29, 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: A number of studies have demonstrated that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are faster or more successful than typically developing control participants at various visual-attentional tasks (for reviews, see Dakin and Frith in Neuron 48:497-507, 2005; Simmons et al. in Vis Res 49:2705-2739, 2009). This "ASD advantage" was first identified in the domain of visual search by Plaisted et al. (J Child Psychol Psychiatry 39:777-783, 1998). Here we survey the findings of visual search studies from the past 15 years that contrasted the performance of individuals with and without ASD. Although there are some minor caveats, the overall consensus is that-across development and a broad range of symptom severity-individuals with ASD reliably outperform controls on visual search. The etiology of the ASD advantage has not been formally specified, but has been commonly attributed to 'enhanced perceptual discrimination', a superior ability to visually discriminate between targets and distractors in such tasks (e.g. O'Riordan in Cognition 77:81-96, 2000). As well, there is considerable evidence for impairments of the attentional network in ASD (for a review, see Keehn et al. in J Child Psychol Psychiatry 37:164-183, 2013). We discuss some recent results from our laboratory that support an attentional, rather than perceptual explanation for the ASD advantage in visual search. We speculate that this new conceptualization may offer a better understanding of some of the behavioral symptoms associated with ASD, such as over-focusing and restricted interests.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 10/2013; DOI:10.1007/s10803-013-1957-x · 3.06 Impact Factor
    • "Since this was a convenience sample of grandparents, we will explain the context of the technology workshops (Wright et al., 2011). Our technology workshops focused on strengths of youth with ASDs, such as interests in computers, emphasizing the spatial-visual strengths often found with this disorder (Grandin, 1995; Kennedy & Banks, 2011; Mottron, 2011). We leveraged these strengths to build intergenerational interactions through shared technology experiences. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study of grandparent involvement was embedded in the context of technology workshops offered for young children with autism spectrum disorders. This research was intergenerationally focused and actively included grandparents as part of the program design. Fourteen grandparents of the seven students involved in the workshops were interviewed about their relationship with their grandchild with autism spectrum disorders, and we examined the differing levels of grandparent engagement with their grandchildren. Content analysis of transcribed one-to-one interviews with the grandparents indicated there was a range of engagement, with some grandparents being actively engaged while others were less engaged with their grandchildren with autism spectrum disorders and their activities. Implications for future research and intergenerational programs are discussed especially in the context of grandparenting grandchildren with autism spectrum disorders.
    Journal of Intergenerational Relationships 04/2013; 11(2):134-147. DOI:10.1080/15350770.2013.782744
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