When Quirks and Quick Learning Create a Quandary: Mild Autism

  • Elizabeth N. Adams


There was nothing Molly enjoyed more than a day at the zoo with her mother. Immediately after entering the gates, she would run to the “Big Cats” house, dragging her mother along. Molly was just like the other Big Cat loving kids, because she relished watching the powerful animals prowl among the rocks and hearing them make those big gut-busting growls just before lunchtime. But, shortly after her third birthday, Molly 's very observant mother noticed that she was different from the other Big Cat loving kids in some ways as well. When the other kids saw the leopards, their wide-eyed facial expressions would turn quickly to their parents' faces and then back and forth between their faces and the cats. The children 's tiny index fingers would automatically extend, as if instinctually pointing to show these intriguing animals, to share the moment with their parents.

Although she felt excited inside just like the other kids, Molly 's external response was very different. She did not attempt to share the experience with her mother by looking or pointing; rather, she stared intently at the animals and sometimes tapped two of her fingers together or made a clicking noise with her mouth. Molly 's mother observed that she seemed like she was in her own world during these times, “as if her wheels were turning constantly.” Her mother soon learned at least part of why those wheels were turning. One day Molly approached the exhibit and was able to accurately label the species name and country of origin of each cat, from memory! At 3 years of age, she had developed quite an extensive knowledge within this area of interest that seemed somewhat precocious.


Autistic Spectrum Disorder Autism Spectrum Disorder Executive Functioning Pervasive Developmental Disorder Neuropsychological Test Battery 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Resources for Clinicians

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth N. Adams
    • 1
  1. 1.Minnesota Epilepsy GroupSaint Paul

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