Autism from developmental and neuropsychological perspectives

Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2006;2:327-55. doi: 10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.2.022305.095210.


In this review of the research literature on autism, we argue that the application of developmental and neuropsychological perspectives has contributed importantly to the understanding of the core deficits in autism and their underlying neural bases. The three classes of theories postulated to explain the developmental and neuropsychological deficits in autism are considered in terms of the specificity, uniqueness, and universality of these impairments in autism. Because we believe that a primary reason for our lack of understanding of the developmental trajectory in autism stems from our inability to diagnose the syndrome in the first three years of life, research approaches to early identification are discussed, as are longitudinal studies aimed at identifying later-life outcomes and their predictors. In contrast to the progress made in defining the core deficits and arriving at criteria for diagnosis, less progress has been made in identifying the causes of autism and in creating and testing interventions aimed at ameliorating the impairments of autism, possibly because these activities have been less tied to the developmental and neuropsychological models that have enlightened the investigation of core deficits.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Autistic Disorder / genetics
  • Behavior Therapy / methods
  • Behavior Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Developmental Disabilities / diagnosis*
  • Developmental Disabilities / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Models, Neurological
  • Models, Psychological
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Social Adjustment
  • Treatment Outcome