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Affect Diathesis Hypothesis

THE AFFECT DIATHESIS HYPOTHESIS: The Role of Emotions in the Core Deficit in Autism and in the Development of Intelligence and Social Skills
Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D.

Abstract. In this paper we will explore the role of affect in the core deficit in autism and in the development of intelligence and social skills. We discuss how children with autistic spectrum disorders may uniquely, for biological reasons, miss a critical developmental capacity, the ability to connect affect or intent to motor planning and sequencing capacities as well as symbol formation and, therefore, have a difficult time engaging in the long reciprocal chains of affective interaction so necessary for creative and abstract thinking and high-level social skills (Affect Diathesis Hypothesis). We will also discuss how these same affective interactions underlie intelligence and social development. Additionally, we explain that to improve assessments and interventions for children with a variety of challenges including autistic spectrum disorders, it is imperative to appreciate the role of affective interchanges in disordered and healthy development. Finally, we explain that to fully operationalize the role of affective interaction and the Affect Diathesis Hypothesis for the assessment and intervention process, we have
formulated the Developmental, Individual-Difference, Relationship-Based model (DIR) (Greenspan, 1992, 1997b; Greenspan & Wieder, 1997, 1998, 1999).

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