Parents provide clues to autism

Neil Tweedie:

Are you and your partner graduates and prepared to answer a few online questions about your children? If so, Simon Baron-Cohen would like to hear from you.
One of the country’s foremost researchers into the causes of autism, Professor Baron-Cohen wants to know what kind of degree you hold. If you are both graduates in the so-called hard sciences, such as engineering and computer science, then you may end up being of particular interest. The reason is that parents who are both “systemisers”, as he describes them, appear more likely to have autistic children.
Systemisers are lovers of precision, people who are good at analysing how things work and discerning patterns. Ideal material for code-breaking activities. Current thinking suggests we all sit somewhere on a scale of systemising. At one end are people who have little or no drive to be precise when confronted with structured information – political spin doctors might be an example – and at the other are hyper-systemisers, those whose obsession with analysis and dissection borders on the autistic.