A Possible World: Autism from Practice to Theory

University dissertation from Cognitive Science

Abstract: Persons with autism develop along trajectories that differ from the typical. Therefore, development itself gives important clues for understanding the behavioral profile characteristic of autism. Developing autism means being different, not necessarily being deficient. The infant and her environment coevolve, and therefore experience of a dynamic world is important in shaping both brain and behavior. Early development of sensory and motor skills is highly linked to cognitive abilities Exploration of the environment helps educate the perceptual system and intimately links perception with action in an interactive loop. The action?perception loop continues to play an important role in cognitive development and later cognitive processing, such as categorization and concept formation. Sensorimotor disturbances are ubiquitously found in the autism spectrum. This thesis traces sensorimotor development in autism, and the possible consequences a disturbance in the coupling of action and perception can have on cognitive processes, which are situated and embodied. The thesis also includes a chapter on pedagogical implications. The cues offered to further learning and behavior must be adapted to the different experiences of living on the autism spectrum. The cues must be salient, target the appropriate memories of similar contexts. provide sufficient feedback, etc.

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