Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Blue manicure for Autism Awareness

April is autism awareness month, and I've joined the Paint it Blue initiative. While I'm not sure how much actions like these spread awareness, I am very much interested in autism - I teach psychology, and the topic of what exactly happens during the development in autistic children is a fascinating one.

So, let's start with a basic intro! This will only cover the basics of what autism is and the symptoms. If I were to write about the exact cognitive and developmental issues, or the brain correlates of autism, I would write a book and still not address everything.

Autism is classed by the DSM-IV as a pervasive developmental disorder - this means that problems arise in the developmental process itself, and the child's development is not delayed, but atypical. Autism is one of the five disorders grouped under that heading, alongside Asperger's disorder and  Rett's syndrome. The main features of autism are the presence of markedly abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication and a markedly restricted repertoire of activity and interests, which include repetitive and stereotyped behaviours. This is often presented as a 'triad of impairments' in social interaction, communication and behaviour patterns. However, the individual presentation of these problems can be very varied, and different children can present with markedly different symptom and behaviours.This variability has contributed to the use of the 'autistic spectrum' term, which is better at describing the different levels of functioning and impairment children and adults with autism can present.

The first identifiable signs of autism start appearing around the second year of infant's life, but there is evidence that the brain differences that give rise to autistic behaviour are formed in the second trimester of pregnancy. The usual signs are lack of eye contact and smiling, lack of engagement with toys, especially for pretend play, or excessive attachment to a single toy. Children that develop autism usually don't point to objects, rarely babble and are generally impaired in their language skills and corresponding social skills. Children can also show various hypersensitivities - to sound, to touch and to light, and are attached to routines. Later in development, people with autism show a very literal approach to language and often describe themselves as thinking in pictures rather than words. If you're interested in an autistic person's perspective, head over to Temple Grandin's page!

The current prevalence rate of autistic spectrum disorders (including Asperger's) has been estimated at one in 88, and there is considerable debate about whether the increase in diagnosis is due to an actual increase in incidence, or due to different approach to diagnosis and a widening of the diagnostic criteria. If this is something that interest you, I can recommend this Science Based Medicine post.

The manicure is more of a post script to this, so I won't post the usual details on how it was done. It's here for a different reason.

Blue skittlette for Autism Awareness.

Polishes used: A-England Order of the Garter, OPI Pure, Color Club Sexy Siren and Stargazer 232

Thanks for reading!


  1. I'm into psychology too so I perfectly know what you mean. Autism is a very delicate disorder to deal with yet a very fascinating topic for "us".

    Love the blue you've chosen <3

  2. This is stunning and a lovely blog post :)


Thanks for all your comments! I read and appreciate them all :)