We’re delighted to share details of this new (published February 2019) book, jointly written by me, Sue Fletcher-Watson and Professor Francesca Happé of King’s College London.
About the Book:
Here’s the official blurb: This new edition of Happé’s best-selling textbook provides a concise overview of contemporary psychological theories about autism. Using a ‘levels of explanation’ framework, the authors explore the relationship between psychological (cognitive) explanatory models and biological or behavioural models and considers their clinical and educational impact. The book includes voices giving the autistic point of view, as well as an analysis of cutting edge questions for future research such as issues of neurodiversity. It is essential reading for undergraduate and postgraduate students in psychology as well as practitioners in clinical or educational psychology who require theoretical understanding.
The more informal story behind the book is that I was tremendously influenced as an undergraduate and beyond, by Francesca’s original text Autism: An Introduction to Psychological Theory, which was published in 1994. After recommending it to students of my own for years, I finally had one brave soul point out to me in about 2016 that the book was totally out of date – which of course was true. The autism research field has moved a very long way since then – perhaps not always in a forward direction – and in particular the range and complexity of potential psychological theories relevant to autism has grown exponentially. I approached Francesca about doing an update and was thrilled when she agreed. The book was largely written in 2017 and during 2018 the manuscript was reviewed, edited and prepared for publication.
As noted above, the book includes sections written by autistic contributrs – one in each chapter. I am posting a separate library item here, explaining how we did this with documents you can download and use as templates if you want to do the same.
“If you read one book on autism, this should be the one! There is no other account of psychological theories that is as clear, as engaging and as succinct. The authors not only explain what research has revealed about the nature of this complex condition, they critically analyse the impact of the research on the life of people with autism and their families. They break new ground by exploring the consequences of the still new concept of neurodiversity for a future research agenda and, true to their principles, constructively incorporate comments by autistic people from all walks of life.” – Professor Dame Uta Frith, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development, University College London, UK.
“This book gives an accessible overview of psychological theory in regard to autism, including recent developments and controversies. The highlight however is the commentary remarks at the end of each chapter by autistic people. A must read for all those studying autism and those working with autistic people.” – Dr Damian Milton, Lecturer in Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Tizard Centre, University of Kent, UK.
“For more than two decades, Francesca Happé has led the way in explaining the psychology of autistic people to students and experts alike. Now joining forces with Sue Fletcher-Watson, this new introduction brings the voices of autistic people themselves, their families and communities to the forefront of their analysis. The result is a magnificent book that will cause us all to think anew about autistic psychology and experience.” – Professor Liz Pellicano, Macquarie University, Australia
“This book is a must-read for everyone interested in understanding the current landscape of autism. It includes everything you will want to know from history to biology; from theory to practice; presented in a balanced and lucid style that will engage all readers. The book is a remarkable achievement that will, like the first edition, become an instant classic.” – Professor Helen Tager-Flusberg, Ph.D., Boston University, USA.
“For many people, myself included, Francesca Happé’s 1995 book was their gateway to autism research. This update, written with Sue Fletcher-Watson, is much-needed and long overdue. Like the first edition, it provides a wonderfully lucid yet concise introduction to psychological accounts of autism. But it also serves as an historical document, reflecting the seismic changes in our understanding of and attitudes towards autism over the past quarter century and the growing voice of autistic people in challenging preconceptions about their own condition and influencing the priorities and goals of autism science.” – Dr. Jon Brock, Macquarie University, Australia.
You can cite the book as: Fletcher-Watson, S., & Happé, F. (2019). Autism: A new introduction to psychological theory and current debate. Routledge, London UK.
The original book citation is: Happé, S., (1994). Autism: An introduction to psychological theory. Routledge, London UK.
The contents page is displayed on the right hand side.
Buying the book
You can buy the book directly from the publisher, Routledge, at this website and use the offer code BSE19 for a 20% discount. There are links on that page to request a sample copy for lecturers and informaiton for librarians.
You can also buy the book on Amazon – please leave a review if you have time!
Free book content
We commissioned the immensely talented sketchnote artists, Marisa Montaldi, to create illustrative summaries of each chapter and you can download these for free! There’s a sample below, and you can get the entire collection of jpegs for each chapter from Figshare here, and the collection as pdfs at this Figshare link.
The DOI (digital object identifier) for the .jpg sketchnotes is: 10.6084/m9.figshare.7706492
Extract from the book:
Here’s a sample extract from Chapter 5 to give you a taste of what you can find in the book. In this chapter we introduce the cognitive level in more detail, reviewing some key features of autism and interpreting them in terms of psychological concepts and processes. This is a precursor to a series of chapters examining the evidence for and against specific theoretical models in more depth.
3. Mentalising and emotion
What about differences in perceptual exploration and identification of emotional expressions from faces, body language and stories? If we find differences here, this suggests that there’s something going on in autism that extends beyond meta-representation specifically. While there is evidence of autistic differences, many studies report no difference (Uljarevic & Hamilton, 2013), and there is burgeoning evidence to suggest that some emotion recognition difficulties are due to co-occurring alexithymia – difficulty recognising what emotion you are feeling – rather than to autism (Bird & Cook, 2013). Furthermore, it is not clear whether emotion recognition in autism relies on different mechanisms to those found in neurotypical groups, nor whether such differences are fundamental to autism, or merely a result of reduced or different interpersonal experience (Harms et al., 2010).
Recent data have also begun to reveal that neurotypical people struggle to recognise and interpret the emotional reactions of autistic people, even while rating them as equally intense and expressive (Brewer et al., 2016; Sheppard et al., 2016). At the interoceptive level, there is evidence that some autistic people may experience even fundamental states, such as hunger and pain, differently from the general population (DuBois et al., 2016; Moore, 2015). Alexithymia has been linked to altered interoception, as part of a wider difficulty identifying how you feel inside (Murphy et al., 2018). Understanding more about interoception in autism may be important for elucidating sensory sensitivities and experiences, as well as differences in the social domain. Given the fact that there are probably differences between autistic and non-autistic people in how they experience, express or perceive emotional states and interoceptive states (even though we haven’t quite pinned these down), it seems that our cognitive explanations need to explore more than just meta-representation to explain the social features of autism.
At the same time, it is essential to emphasise that if people with autism have problems knowing what other people are thinking, that doesn’t mean they do not care how they feel. There is a dissociation between the skills required to comprehend the mental states of other people (mentalising), and emotional empathy. An example is illustrated in Figure 5.3. A mother was crying after the family cat had died. Her autistic son went and searched through all of his toys and found a hard, plastic figurine with a human body and a cat’s head, from the children’s cartoon show, Thundercats. In an attempt to comfort his crying mother, he prodded her gently with the figurine and, when she ignored him, finally held it up very close to her eye, pressing it into her face. This didn’t have the effect of comforting the mother, but it seems clear that the boy was motivated by empathy and a strong desire to help, even though his solution (while logical) didn’t really work. Thus, we can see a dissociation in autism between knowing what someone thinks, which may be hard, and caring and feeling with them, which comes naturally. The same distinction is apparent in a very different group; those with psychopathy. Psychopaths are the opposite of autistic: they are good at telling what you are thinking and may use that to manipulate you, but don’t give a damn about your feelings. In autism, feeling empathy must also be distinguished from expressing empathy – the latter may prove challenging for some autistic people, especially if expected to act in narrowly defined, normative ways to show they care. Finally, we should note that it is also possible that many, if not all, of the social domain differences observed in autism, may in fact be underpinned cognitively by non-social explanations – this theoretical angle is explored in Chapter 8.