Date of Award

5-3-2006

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Roger Bakeman - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Diana Robins

Third Advisor

Dr. Lauren Adamson

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are neurodevelopmental disorders that affect social, communication, and behavioral development. Social impairments have been implicated as primary symptoms of ASD and communication impairments are often cited as initial concerns among parents. Yet there is an inconsistency in the literature regarding the existence of restricted interests and repetitive behaviors (RR) in very young children (i.e., those younger than 4 years) with ASD and the association between RR and sensory dysfunction. The purpose of the current project was to identify social deficits that most distinguish very young children with ASD, assess whether RR are present in very young children diagnosed with ASD, and explore the relationship between RR and sensory dysfunction. Results support the hypothesis that social impairments are primary symptoms of ASD. Stereotyped patterns of thought and behavior were present in this sample and were correlated with sensory dysfunction. Implications for theory, diagnosis, and research are discussed.

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