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A Developmental Model For Facilitating The Social Behavior Of Autistic Children

G. Dawson, L. Galpert
Published 1986 · Psychology

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In Kanner’s (1943) original description of autistic children, as well as in the current DSM-III criteria for diagnosis of early infantile autism, the inability to relate normally to other people is given as a fundamental characteristic of this disorder. Yet, as Rutter (1983) has pointed out, “until very recently, the social abnormalities of autistic children have been the least studied of all the features of the syndrome, in spite of the fact that it is they that give rise to the name of the syndrome, autism” (p. 524). Instead, research has focused on the cognitive and language characteristics of autistic children. This research has not only led to a better understanding of the nature of their cognitive and linguistic deficits, it has also been the basis for a variety of therapeutic strategies, particularly language interventions, aimed at remediating them. It is encouraging, in light of this focus on language intervention, that many autistic children who have been exposed to intensive therapeutic and educational experiences have achieved quite adequate linguistic skills by adolescence. Their remaining difficulties lie within the social, rather than the strictly linguistic, realm. Thus, although these adolescents may be able to formulate and express complex ideas, their social use of language and their general ability to comprehend and adapt to subtle social cues remain serious problems.
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