Autism – a collection of unique disorders?

Note: As always, the work I do for my journalism portfolio for my MA Magazine Journalism course at the University of Sheffield are uploaded here. This one is my 300-500 word piece for the JNL6024 module in the spring semester. It says “Cognition reports” in the sell because as part of the module, we had to create a dummy magazine. Mine was called Cognition and was meant to be a magazine for parents who have special needs children. I’ll be uploading the designed spreads for my other pieces later on.

Electric signals sent by the brain may carry messages that could provide clues to the roots of autism, a Sheffield University psychologist says. Cognition reports.

The autism spectrum may not be a spectrum at all. Instead of a range of related disorders, Elizabeth Milne suspects the links are not as close as previously thought.

“Variations of autism – and what were assumed to be different aspects of autism – are perhaps a collection of unique disorders,” Milne, a leading researcher, said.

Autism is traditionally diagnosed on the basis of social impairments, but Dr Milne is trying to prove the importance of sensory impairments toward understanding the finer aspects of the disability.

“While sensory impairments can be recognized in some subjects, it was never universal. That seems to imply sub-types of autism, which to me is an interesting approach.” 

Autism does show variation between those affected by it – some have a higher IQ than others; some are verbal while others are not. 

Therefore, Dr Milne’s hypothesis could lead to interesting results with regard to future diagnosis.

She said: “My research focuses on sensory types of impairment that we often overlook when diagnosing autism. I really want to whether these impairments affect everyone who has autism or just some of them, and how it affects their daily lives.”

Dr. Milne is currently designing a large-scale study with a greater degree of testing measures in the field of motion perception in order to further explore her concept of autistic sub-types.

She is also using the method of measuring electric signals emitted by the brain upon the presentation of a stimulus so as to map the brain process of an autistic person.

She hopes to start recruiting participants in the next six months, with a testing sample of 40 autistic children and 40 in the control group.

Apart from publishing her findings and speaking about them at medical conferences, Dr. Milne is keen to explain to the people who participate in her study, what the aims of the research are and whether or not they have been achieved. 

“I want to feed back the information I garner from my research to the people who participate and make it clear to them. Most people would not understand medical jargon, so I would like to make results of my study accessible to everyone.”

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