World of Autism (02:55)
Over half a million people in Britain are autistic. In this film, Professor Uta Frith will reveal her discoveries about how people live with the condition. She began research after interacting with autistic children during her clinical psychology studies.
Understanding Autism (02:38)
In the 1960s, children began being diagnosed with a condition characterized by difficulty interacting with others and withdrawal. Joe Allison is now 57; view footage of him receiving speech therapy as a child. Experts now know that autism is a lifelong brain abnormality.
Many autistic individuals have talents seemingly at odds with their condition. Kenny has a gift for mental arithmetic and calendrical calculation, meaning he can predict the day of the week that a date falls on.
Calendrical Calculation (03:26)
Kenny explains his calendar pattern identification system to a psychologist. His strong memory and desire to practice support the unusual gift. Approximately one third of autistic people have unusual abilities like perfect pitch.
Autistic Mind Experiment (03:04)
Kenny says he sees things differently than his peers. Frith has autistic and non-autistic people search for Wally among a chaotic picture. Those with autism locate him immediately—showing their attention to detail and tendency to miss the big picture.
Social Interaction Challenges (02:59)
Acting student Jules Robinson has Asperger's Syndrome. While he has no speech problems, it's difficult for him to engage people in conversation; theater classes help him improve communication.
Autistic Honesty (03:06)
Acting class helps Jules learn about social interactions, but he's uncomfortable in real life conversations. His lack of diplomacy and impulse to tell the truth sets him apart from people without Asperger's Syndrome.
Extra Social Sense (03:15)
Frith uses two dolls to tell a story illustrating individual beliefs, wishes, and intentions. Most people understand that others have a mind of their own—an ability she calls "mentalizing."
Autism and the Extra Social Sense (01:51)
In the 1980s, Frith showed that autistic children are unable to understand that others have different beliefs and perspectives. This explains why they are often frustrated when we don't know what's in their mind.
Mentalizing Experiment (02:50)
Frith and her colleague Francesca Happe use animated scenarios to test people's ability to predict social behavior. Most subjects use their extra social sense to interpret the stories.
Mentalizing and Autism (02:57)
Autistic test subjects miss the point of an animated scenario illustrating social behavior. Brain scans show less activity in areas devoted to mentalizing; their inability to interpret actions and words makes it difficult to communicate and interact with others.
Autism Insight (03:18)
Autistic educator Sarah explains why public speaking is easier than two way conversations. She finds encounters with strangers frightening because she can't predict their behavior or the outcome of their interaction.
Emulating Human Interaction (03:12)
Sarah learned to imitate social behavior to mask her autism. Non-autistic children will copy adult actions when given a task, but autistic children take a more direct, logical approach.
Autism and Relationships (03:38)
Sarah and her partner Keith, who is also autistic, discuss why they are together. They don't see the point of socializing and lack the emotion of missing other people because it requires abstract imagination.
Autistic Spectrum (03:01)
Sarah and Keith show that autistic people can relate to others. Autistic characteristics are present in many of us, including Isaac Newton. An expert shows how autistic traits are measured in the general population.
Diagnosing Autism (02:22)
Clinical diagnoses are based on the degree to which autistic traits interfere with daily life. Frith identifies autistic-like characteristics in herself; whether there is a point on the autistic spectrum at which autism begins is a mystery.
Ongoing Autism Mysteries (02:25)
Despite insights gained into how autistic people see the world, the origins of autism remain unknown. Joe has led a fulfilling life since Frith met him as a boy.
Credits: Living with Autism (00:44)
Credits: Living with Autism
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