Monday, 11 June 2012
I first became interested in what we now call Autism Spectrum Disorders in 1971 when I worked as a volunteer during a summer vacation at a local special school and met two young children with autism. I found their unusual behaviour quite bewildering and became determined to specialize in this area in order to understand and help children and adults with autism.
Over the intervening years I have been able to gain experience of the full range of the spectrum, from babies to the elderly and from those whose abilities and behaviour are profoundly affected to renowned university professors. I have also been able to observe the long term development of children and adults and experience working as a clinician in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, and now regularly visit North America.
My interest in Asperger’s Syndrome occurred by following the same path as Lorna Wing, namely noticing children who had the classic profile of the silent and aloof child in their pre-school years, subsequently developing fluent speech and intellectual abilities in the normal range. Yet these children still had an unusual profile of social reasoning and linguistic skills and an unusually intense interest in a specific topic.
Their profile of abilities was not adequately described by the criteria for autism as described by Leo Kanner but was consistent with the profile described by Hans Asperger. The original assumption was that such children were rare but the benefits of modern intensive early intervention programs means that this is the prognosis for a greater number of children who had classic autistic features when they were very young. An unexpected finding was that once we started to explore this section of the autistic spectrum it soon became apparent that the majority of children with Asperger’s Syndrome did not have a prior diagnosis of autism.
The characteristic profile of abilities and behaviour was not apparent until the child attended school and in this new social context and with age peers, the signs were conspicuous. Teachers and professionals also became more aware of the distinct profile that identifies the syndrome.
I started a diagnostic and treatment clinic for children and adults with Asperger’s Syndrome with Dr Brian Ross, Child Psychiatrist, in Brisbane in 1992. This clinic functions two days a week, the other days I support children and adults by visiting them at school and home. I also spend considerable time traveling to present workshops and papers at national and international conferences, and supervise post-graduate clinical students for clinical experience and research in the area of developmental disorders.Dr. Tony Attwood is coming to Canada this summer! Click here to find out more about his visit to Edmonton on July 12th 2010! Clickhere to find out more about his visit to Toronto on July 24th 2010.