What are the Characteristics of an Autistic Person?

People with autism often have difficulty understanding the thoughts and feelings of others, become very anxious in social situations, have difficulty making friends or prefer to be alone, and may appear blunt, rude, or disinterested without meaning to. Some autistic adults may possess high intelligence, a strong memory, an ability to think creatively, and exceptional talent in certain areas. Other traits may include a unique sense of humor and a strong sense of justice and fairness. In terms of Trait × Context, which is related to diagnosis, certain attributes in ASD such as preferring routine tasks, paying attention to details, and respecting rules may appear to be related to conscientiousness when in fact they take on very different meanings in the context of the disorder.

If similar correlations are found in both the ASD and TD groups, then these groups, even if they differ in trait levels, can still be seen as being on the same continuum of functioning. Research has led to the suggestion that self-knowledge “is impervious to a series of cognitive and neuropsychological insults capable of rendering other knowledge systems partially or totally inoperable” and that self-knowledge of traits can be “an unusually robust and evolutionarily ancient social adaptation” (p. personality traits alone could be used to predict whether or not someone had a diagnosis of ASD, that is, whether they belonged to the ASD or TD group. Although individuals with ASD have been found to be atypical in many domains of functioning, the unique characteristics of individuals with ASD as manifested in their basic personality traits have received little empirical attention.

The spectrum model proposes that personality traits and psychopathology are found on a single continuum, with psychopathology being a more extreme manifestation of a particular trait or set of traits. In Study 1, all group differences at the trait level were replicated at the facet level, except that no group difference was found for Aesthetics. To gain a better understanding of trait processes in ASD it is important to examine how traits relate to the phenotypic characteristics of the disorder in individuals with and without ASD. TD group membership did not predict intra-group variability in the severity of ASD symptoms and had different links to maladaptation in the ASD and TD groups, suggesting that ASD represents more than an extreme position on the dimensions of traits. To further explore this idea (i.e., TD group membership), discriminant function analyses were conducted separately for children's self-reports and parental reports using Big Five traits as predictors.

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