International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008): The Implications of Colour Obsessions in Autism Spectrum Disorders: The case of J.G

The Implications of Colour Obsessions in Autism Spectrum Disorders: The case of J.G

Thursday, May 15, 2008
Champagne Terrace/Bordeaux (Novotel London West)
9:30 AM
A. K. Ludlow , Psychology, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, United Kingdom
E. Hill , Psychology Department, Goldsmiths, University of London, London, United Kingdom
P. Heaton , Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, London, United Kingdom
Background: Case studies of individuals diagnosed with disorders characterised by high levels of heterogeneity potentially highlight factors contributing to this.  Whilst cases of “colour phobia” in ASD have been reported anecdotally (White & White, 1987; Williams, 1999), no systematic research into their effects on the individuals who experience them, or their association with other sensory abnormalities has been carried out. 

Objectives: The study of colour phobic individuals may provide important insights into heterogeneity in perceptual processing in autism, as well as in cognitive organisation within the phobic domain in individuals with autism.   We report the case of J.G., a boy diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), whose early and persistent colour obsession has resulted in highly selective processing of colour information.

Methods: Here we evaluated sensory processing abnormalities (measured by the Sensory Profile test (Dunn, 1999), colour perception, memory and categorisation in a child with an extreme colour phobia. His performance was compared to a group of both chronological age and non-verbal intelligence matched children with autism and typically developing controls.

Results: The Sensory Profile revealed significant difficulties across all sensory modalities, in relation to both typical and developmentally atypical populations. Assessment with the WISC showed an uneven cognitive profile with good performance on non-verbal sub-tests and strikingly poor verbal subtest scores. In experiments 1 & 2 we investigated the effect of J.G.’s colour aversions on memory recall and perceptual discrimination. As the findings showed that J.G.’s preferred colour was poorly discriminated in comparison to colours with negative affective associations, we tested his categorisation of colours that shared category boundaries with his preferred colour in experiment 3.

Conclusions: Taken together the findings showed an extreme reliance on colour terms in memory, hypersensitivity to colours with negative affective valence and atypical processing of blue across different experimental tasks.

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