"The Changing Face of Autism"
Under the heading "The changing face of autism" Professor Volkmar spoke about ASD as a disorder of social interaction associated with unusual patterns of learning and over-engagement with the non-social world. In the 1970s the perception of autism as a brain based and strongly genetic condition first emerged and the need for structured treatment was stressed. Pointing to the immense increase in research and public interest on ASD from the 1980s and onwards, Professor Volkmar reported on both research advances and current knowledge gaps. He mentioned genetics as an area in which considerable advances have been made while research on older adults and ageing in ASD as well as research on interventions were named as areas that are difficult to fund and that remain sparsely studied. Other knowledge gaps that were brought forward were studies on depression and mood problems, studies on how to match children with the best treatment, and those concerned with new approaches to early diagnosis. Professor Volkmar also spoke about issues connected to conducting research on ASD, particularly when researching evidence-based interventions. Sample selection was identified as an issue relating to how representative a study can make claims to being. The increasing understanding that overlapping of symptoms is the norm rather than the exception in people with ASD is not adequately reflected in research, with many studies aiming to include only those individuals with "pure" autism. When individuals are excluded from studies based on comorbidity, the resulting sample could be said to constitute a sub-sample rather than a sample that can make claims to represent the whole or the majority of the group. Professor Volkmar also stressed the need for individualised interventions and support in school, noting that schools often have one method that is applied according to a one-size-fits-all logic.