The Passionate Mind: How People with Autism Learn

The Passionate Mind: How People with Autism Learn


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In entirely accessible terms, Wendy Lawson lays out her groundbreaking theory of Single Attention and Associated Cognition in Autism (SAACA), an approach that explains autism in terms of the unique learning style of individuals on the autism spectrum.

She shows that whereas neurotypical people can easily shift their attention from one interest to another, those on the autism spectrum tend to focus on a single theme at any one time. This leads to a deep, intense attention. Wendy describes practical outcomes for individuals, families, educators and employers. She shows that when this unique learning style is understood, valued and accommodated, individuals on the autism spectrum can be empowered to achieve their fullest potential.

This is an essential read for anyone with a personal or professional interest in autism, including individuals on the spectrum and their families, educators, clinical practitioners, researchers, occupational therapists, and other professionals.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781849051217
Publisher: Kingsley, Jessica Publishers
Publication date: 09/28/2010
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Wendy Lawson, a psychologist, lecturer and author, has operated her own private practice for many years. Wendy was awarded fourth place as 'Victorian Australian of the year' in 2008. Originally diagnosed as being intellectually disabled, then in her teens as being schizophrenic, finally Wendy was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum in 1994. The mother of four children, Wendy has been married, separated and divorced, has experienced the death of one of her teenage sons, lost friends and status due to being openly gay, faced ill health and recently is coming to terms with the fact that she is aging! Wendy's youngest son is also on the autism spectrum.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements 9

Foreword Rita Jordan 11

1 Introduction 15

The reasons for writing this book 16

The power of words 17

Brain configuration 17

What to expect in the book 18

The role of attention and interest 20

2 The Autism Spectrum: Where we Are Now 29

Introduction 29

So what does the autism spectrum look like" 29

Gender 34

Autism spectrum strengths 34

Learning style 35

Sensory differences 36

Summary 38

3 cognitive Theories of the Autism Spectrum 39

Introduction 39

Cognition and cognitive theory 39

Considering theory in the autism spectrum 40

Attention and interest 42

Summary 43

4 Cognitive Theory: Theory of Mind 44

Introduction 44

Definition 44

Foundations for theory of mind 45

Components of theory of mind 46

Application to child development 48

Development of theory of mind 50

Difficulties with a rigid view of theory of mind development 52

The most noted test for theory of mind 55

Theory of mind research over time 56

Questions concerning theory of mind 57

Other potential questions 61

Summary 64

5 Cognitive Theory: Executive Functioning 65

Introduction 65

Definition 65

Foundations for executive functioning theory 66

Components of executive functioning theory 67

Application to child development 68

Research over time 70

Executive functioning and theory of mind 71

Questions concerning executive functioning and the autism spectrum 71

Other questions and limitations 74

Summary 75

6 Cognitive Theory: Weak Central Coherence 77

Introduction 77

Definition 77

Foundations for weak central coherence theory 78

Components of weak central coherence theory 81

Application in the neurotypical and autism spectrum populations 83

Research over time 84

Limitations of weak central coherence theory 85

Summary 90

7 Cognitive Theory: Enhanced Perceptual Functioning 91

Introduction 91

Definition 91

Foundations for enhanced perceptual functioning theory 92

Components of enhanced perceptual functioning theory 94

Application in the neurotypical and autism spectrum populations 96

Research over time 96

Comparison with other cognitive theories 97

Limitations of enhanced perceptual functioning theory 98

Summary 98

8 An Alternative Cognitive Theory: Single Attention and Associated Cognition in Autism 100

Introduction 100

Definitions 101

Monotropism as a foundation for SAACA 101

Attention 104

Attention and brain configuration 107

Monotropism and the sensory system 110

Monotropism and interest 112

Attention, motivation and interest 114

Triad of impairments or product of SAACA" 116

Processing style 117

Monotropism and learning styles 119

Complex cognitive skills coupled with interest and attention 120

The cognitive components of SAACA 123

Monotropism and literality 123

Monotropism and thinking in closed concepts 125

Monotropism: context and scale 128

Monotropism: timing, sequencing and predicting 129

Monotropism and non-social priorities 131

Summary 132

9 The Relevance of SAACA 133

Introduction 133

Everyday experiences for autism spectrum individuals 134

When things change 135

The concept of time 136

SAACA's explanation of why autism spectrum and neurotypical perceptions are different 137

Case studies 139

Autism spectrum comprehension 148

Problems with autism spectrum comprehension (if using a neurotypical lens) 150

What might it mean when an expectation is not fulfilled" 152

Problem-solving ideas using SAACA 153

Tom's story - An extended case study 155

Why does Tom have his difficulties" 160

Can we help Tom cope with change" 160

When and how do we execute an intervention for Tom" 160

What about generalising Tom's learning" 161

Reasoning behind using IT, visuals and structure 161

Neurotypical parenting 162

Summary 164

10 Looking to the Future 165

Introduction 165

A different learning style 165

Completing tasks 167

Normality 168

It's in everyone's interest 171

Experiments to refute or support SAACA 172

Limitations of SAACA 174

List Of Publications 175

References 177

Appendix A A Model Of Mind Presented As A Dynamical System Of Interests Competing For Attention 197

Appendix B Paraphrase Of Criteria For Autism Spectrum Disorder 201

Appendix C Non-Cognitive Theories Of Autism 204

Appendix D Paintings By An Autism Spectrum Adult 213

Appendix E Summary Of Communication 'Obstacles' 215

Subject Index 217

Author Index 222

List of Figures

Figure 4.1 The development of theory of mind according to Baron-Cohen (1997), as adapted by Stagnitti (2004) 51

Figure 6.1 An alternative explanation to weak central coherence 88

Figure 8.1 Monotropic attention in autistic spectrum (AS) individuals and polytropic attention in neurologically typical (NT) individuals 105

Figure 8.2 Expected neurotypical development: Multiple connections between senses and interest states. Resulting from the ability to divide attention allowing for multi-tasking and social connectivity 121

Figure 8 3 Single Attention and Associated Cognition in Autism (SAACA) 122

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