Music Therapy, Sensory Integration, and the Autistic Child

By Dorita S. Berger | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Aspects of Autism

Many myths exist about the anomaly labeled [autism] that continually beg clarification. We now know that autism is not a [childhood] disorder, although it can appear as early as 20 weeks in the womb and is generally clearly evident by the age of two. Autism is not a psycho-emotional disorder resulting from a [frigid] mother. Autism is not a behavioral problem requiring conformity.

Autism is a neurologically atypical manner of function, with genetic and sensory-motor implications. There appear to be atypical brain structures in persons with autistic symptoms that can be detected in utero, or after birth (Frith 1989, pp.1–15). However, it is still unclear whether an atypical brain structure is a contributing factor of autism, or rather, whether autistic neurologic processes create the altered brain structures. Nevertheless, it is clear that the [frigid parent] theory is not valid, and what appears inchildhood as autism remains throughout life.

Autism is a developmental disorder often referenced under the term Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). The term pervasive means that delays in certain areas of development will impact, along the line of growth, upon other areas of development, compounding the deficits of function. Because it is a developmental disorder, autistic symptoms inherent in a particular personality will appear different at different ages, some aspects fading away with growth stages while others begin.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning there is not one way of being autistic. Autistic characteristics range from the genius savant who can perform complex calendar calculations but cannot add two plus two, to high-functioning scientists, authors and artists, to minimally functional, non-verbal

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