• Infancy, autism, and the emergence of a socially disordered body

    Greg Hollin (see profile) , Pilnick Alison
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    Twenty academic psychologists and neuroscientists, with an interest in autism and based within the United Kingdom, were interviewed between 2012 and 2013 on a variety of topics related to the condition. Within these qualitative interviews researchers often argued that there had been a ‘turn to infancy’ since the beginning of the 21st century with focus moving away from the high functioning adolescent and towards the pre-diagnostic infant deemed to be ‘at risk’ of autism. The archetypal research of this type is the ‘infant sibs’ study whereby infants with an elder sibling already diagnosed with autism are subjected to a range of tests, the results of which are examined only once it becomes apparent whether that infant has autism. It is claimed in this paper that the turn to infancy has been facilitated by two phenomena; the autism epidemic of the 1990s and the emergence of various methodological techniques, largely although not exclusively based within neuroscience, which seek to examine social disorder in the absence of comprehension or engagement on the part of the participant: these are experiments done to participants rather than with them. Interviewees claimed that these novel methods allowed researchers to see a ‘real’ autism that lay ‘behind’ methodology. That claim is disputed here and instead it is argued that these emerging methodologies other various phenomena, reorienting the social abnormality believed typical of autism away from language and meaning and towards the body. The paper concludes by suggesting that an attempt to draw comparisons between the symptoms of autism in infant populations and adults with the condition inevitably leads to a somaticisation of autism.
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    5 years ago
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