Rethinking Autism

1st Edition

Variation and Complexity

Print ISBN: 9780124159617
eBook ISBN: 9780123914132
Imprint: Academic Press
Published Date: 12th September 2012
Page Count: 480
80.86 + applicable tax
57.95 + applicable tax
45.99 + applicable tax
74.95 + applicable tax
Compatible Not compatible
VitalSource PC, Mac, iPhone & iPad Amazon Kindle eReader
ePub & PDF Apple & PC desktop. Mobile devices (Apple & Android) Amazon Kindle eReader
Mobi Amazon Kindle eReader Anything else

Institutional Access


The media, scientific researchers, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual all refer to "autism" as if it were a single disorder or a single disorder over a spectrum. However, autism is unlike any single disorder in a variety of ways. No single brain deficit is found to cause it, no single drug is found to affect it, and no single cause or cure has been found despite tremendous research efforts to find same. Rethinking Autism reviews the scientific research on causes, symptomology, course, and treatment done to date…and draws the potentially shocking conclusion that "autism" does not exist as a single disorder. The conglomeration of symptoms exists, but like fever, those symptoms aren’t a disease in themselves, but rather a result of some other cause(s). Only by ceasing to think of autism as a single disorder can we ever advance research to more accurately parse why these symptoms occur and what the different and varied causes may be.

Key Features

  • Autism is a massive worldwide problem with increasing prevalence rates, now thought to be as high as 1 in 38 children (Korea) and 1 in 100 children (CDC- US)
  • Autism is the 3rd most common developmental disability; 400,000 people in the United States alone have autism
  • Autism affects the entire brain, including communication, social behavior, and reasoning and is lifelong
  • There is no known cause and no cure
  • Funding for autism research quadrupled from 1995 to 2000 up to $45 million, and the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee has recommended $1 billion funding from 2010-2015


Developmental psychologists, child clinical psychologists, child psychiatrists, pediatric neurologists, and autism researchers.

Table of Contents




Chapter 1. Autism Heterogeneity

Autism Heterogeneity is Extensive and Unexplained

Autism Heterogeneity has Blocked Medical Treatment Discovery

Diagnostic Criteria have not Constrained Autism Heterogeneity

Variation in Autism Diagnostic Features

Variation in Genetic Risk Factors for Autism

Variation in Environmental Risk Factors for Autism

Summary: Variation Exists in all Autism Domains

Autism Subgroups and Unifying Theories for Autism have Addressed Heterogeneity

Subgroups and Unifying Theories have not Explained the Variation in Autism

Has Autism been Reified?

Saving the Phenomena of Autism Variation

How Should We View the Variation in Autism?

Serious Concerns for Maintaining the Autism Diagnosis

Eight Claims Concerning Autism Variation and the Autism Diagnosis


Chapter 2. Autism Symptom Heterogeneity Exists in Family Members

Four Pairs of Siblings with Varying Autism Symptoms

Important Research Questions Raised by Variation in the Four Sibling Pairs

Infant Sibling, Twin, and Family Studies of Autism

Autism Symptoms in Identical and Fraternal Twins

Heterogeneity in the Broader Phenotype of Autism

Two Alternate Hypotheses about the Structure of the Broader Autism Phenotype

Conclusions: Recurrence Risk Rates and Family Phenotypes Reflect Aggregates


Chapter 3. The Social Brain is a Complex Super-Network

The Phrenology Problem

What Brain Circuits Support Social Behaviors?

Mechanisms of The “Dark Matter” of Human Social Cognition

Current Findings for “Social Brain” Deficits in Autism

The Range and Variation in Autism Social Brain Deficits Suggest that Multiple Disorders have been Aggregated in Autism

Conclusion: No Plausib


No. of pages:
© Academic Press 2013
Academic Press
eBook ISBN:
Hardcover ISBN:


"A seminal book forcing a much-needed change in the way in which we think about autism.  Impressively well-researched and well-argued.  A 'must-read' for all autism researchers."

--Prof. Jill Boucher, City University, London, UK



"This book by Lynn Waterhouse will ruffle some feathers, with its bold conclusion that "there is clear detriment to maintaining the diagnostic category of autism spectrum disorder." However, the evidence she presents is compelling. In every domain she investigates - symptoms, neurobiology, etiology, correlates – she finds that there is considerable heterogeneity in autism. As well as striking differences among children with an ASD diagnosis, there is also a lack of specificity in symptoms and causes. For instance, genetic variants and environmental risks that are associated with increased risk of autism are also associated with other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Waterhouse is not denying that there are children with severe developmental difficulties involving social interaction, communication and stereotyped behaviours. Rather, she is questioning whether their needs are best served by grouping them all together under a single umbrella label.

Her view is that research efforts directed at finding a unifying theory of autism are misguided, and that we should be focusing on symptoms rather than an abstract diagnostic category that can obfuscate rather than clarify our understanding."

--Prof. Dorothy Bishop, University of Oxford, UK


"The book is an argument, not an opinion piece or political manifesto. It presents a pile of research findings, and makes a case for what they tell us…I’m grateful for Lynn Waterhouse’s book and fervently hope it will help knock autism research out of a rut (not to mention help improve everyday thinking about autism)… Rethinking Autism moves the conversation forward and I hope it will change our th