Shared concern: A discussion with Uta Frith on the research she has done on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her book,Autism, Explaining the Enigma (1989) has been translated into many languages. She was one of the initiators of the study of Asperger’s Syndrome in the UK and her work on reading development, spelling and dyslexia has been highly influential. Frith’s work on theory of mind in autism proposes the idea that people with autism have specific difficulties understanding other people’s beliefs and desires. Much of this work was carried out with Simon Baron-Cohen who was her PhD student. She has also suggested that individuals with autism have ‘weak central coherence’, and are better than typical individuals at processing details but worse at integrating information from many different sources.
Throughout her career she has been developing a neuro-cognitive approach to developmental disorders. In particular, she has investigated specific cognitive processes and their failure in autism and dyslexia. Her aim is to discover the underlying cognitive causes of these disorders and to link them to behavioral symptoms as well as to brain systems. She aims to make this research relevant to the education of people with development disorders and to contribute to a better quality of their everyday life.
Expert: Uta Frith, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at United College of London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. She is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Aarhus and was recently a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Central European University in Budapest (February – June 2014).