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Is autism an extreme male condition?

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Is autism an 'extreme male' condition? Autism is a development disorder that makes it difficult for a child to interact in social situations and build relationships with others, including parents. Symptoms of autism include: lower than average language abilities; low levels of imaginative thinking; problems with communicating and building relationships; a preference for order and a resistance to change. Autism is also predominantly a male condition. The population of autism as a whole (75% of whom not only have autism but also have mental handicap), the sex ratio is 4:1 (M:F) (Rutter, 1978). If we were only to look at the 'pure' cases of autism (who are also sometimes referred to as having Asperger Syndrome), whose IQs are in the normal range, the sex ratio is even more dramatic: 9:1 (M:F) ...read more.


He argued that there are many similarities between the brain structure of an autistic person and the brain structure of a normal male, but the brain of the autistic person is more of an extreme version. Bailey et al. (1994) found out that the brain of an autistic person is much heavier than the normal male brain. Other brain traits in people with autism are; brain growth is more rapid than the average male; a smaller corpus callosum and abnormally large amygdales than the average male. These facts suggest that autism is an extreme male condition as males tend to have a heavier brain than females, and the fact that the brain of an autistic person is even heavier suggests it is an extreme version of the male condition. ...read more.


Also, autistic people are very slow in developing language, and tests have shown that males develop more slowly than slowly, suggesting that autism is an extreme male brain condition. However, there is some evidence that refutes the argument that autism is an extreme male brian condition. Males tend to show more lateralisation of brain functions than women. If we were to believe the argument, there should be evidence to show that autism would show stronger than normal male lateralisation, but they do not. An explanation for autism could be the result of damage caused by undiagnosed phenylketonuria (PKU) for some cases. A build-up of PKU in the body undiagnosed could lead to abnormal brain development. In conclusion, a majority of the evidence implies that Autism is an extreme male brain condition. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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Response to the question

This starts off a competent essay with a clear and direct instruction to discuss whether there is evidence of autism being a predominantly male cognitive defect, however, it loses itself along the way due to silly errors in writing which ...

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Response to the question

This starts off a competent essay with a clear and direct instruction to discuss whether there is evidence of autism being a predominantly male cognitive defect, however, it loses itself along the way due to silly errors in writing which seem small but ultimately make the candidate's answer seem less impressive. The knowledge of autism is crammed into a first paragraph and whilst it's quite hard to take it all in, all the necessary information is there, but the communication could be altered; as an idea of the small errors that build into one big error - "A low level of male hormones is produced by the adrenal glands in females, so there is some possibility of male brain structures in females" should read "adrenal glands of *autistic* females". Small errors like this seem insignificant, but at the frequency at which they appear in the answer they must be addressed and rectified.

The structure seems appropriate, until the candidate's last few paragraphs where it is unclear what they are actually trying to achieve, having written about the nature of autism, it's gender bias, and cited studies that prove these facts. The "explanation for autism" should be included in the introductory paragraph, and the conclusion given is not an adequate length considering the amount of information that could otherwise be included. I recommend candidates using conclusions as more of a consolidation of the research in the rest of the essay, perhaps mentioning a bit more than simply answering the question bluntly and as if they had undertaken no prior research.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis is fair, but not exhaustive. The candidate demonstrates a good ability to cite appropriate studies to the topic of the psychology of autism, and also shows how to implement each one into the topic at hand. However, some of it is not clear either through a lack of clarity, a misuses of grammar or forgetting to explain complex terms like "lateralisation" (whilst I know, and the examiner will know, it is recommended the candidate prove they know, rather than just use the term without proof they are 100% sure of it's meaning).

The analysis is not largely the best it could be, as sometimes the study references are a quite unclear and the the purpose of the studies are no apparent either. These must be incorporated otherwise any results from the study make no sense and could be made up because if an unfamiliar study is cited, it is hard to tell whether the results are accurate if it is not clear what the purpose of the study was.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is below average for an A Level student. It is clear some errors made are slips of the mind/hand, such as "tests have shown that males develop more slowly than slowly,", but larger discrepancies also feature e.g. "Tests have shown that autistic people seem to better at spatial tasks than normal males, who are generally stronger at spatial tasks", which suggests a paradox as it is saying autistic and normal males are better than each other at spatial tasks. Candidates must make sure they do not do this at A Level, or even GCSE, as these are textbook mistakes as a result of not paying attention to what you're writing, and will give the examiner the suggestion no real care and attention has been put into the essay.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 31/08/2012

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