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date: 05 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes some characteristics of the world of autistic people. Although these conditions are difficult to classify because of how diverse they are, this chapter reveals that there are some essential common traits. These common elements concern fundamental aspects of human intentionality, such as the preconditions of social relatedness. The chapter identifies these traits primarily through the studies conducted by Leo Kanner, who had worked contemporaneously but independently of Hans Asperger during the 1940s. Kanner identified some key features that reappeared, in different ways, in categorial definitions of autism: isolation, need for repetition, and the so-called “islets of ability.” Here, the different “autisms” are forms of existence that, for various biological reasons, develop from a fragile natural self-evidence of the inter-human world, from an original intercorporeal and interpersonal weakness. These reveal that sensory-perceptual worlds of some kind do emerge in autistic people, albeit each with its own particular features: autism, therefore, is not an “empty fortress” but rather a “full weakness.” These existential worlds involve an original difficulty in harmonizing with others, and are often difficult to grasp or imagine for those who live outside of them.

Keywords: autism, social relatedness, Leo Kanner, isolation, repetition, islets of ability, sensory-perceptual worlds

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