Advances in Child Development and Behavior - Chapter 4: Early development in autism: How developmental cascades help us understand the emergence of developmental differences

Elsevier, Advances in Child Development and Behavior, Volume 64, January 2023
Iverson J.M., West K.L., Schneider J.L., Plate S.N., Northrup J.B., Roemer Britsch E.

Many theories of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) focus on a single system or factor as an explanatory mechanism for autism symptoms and behavior. However, there is growing recognition that ASD is a complex, multisystem neurodevelopmental condition with origins in prenatal life. Researchers therefore need a conceptual framework that allows examination of the interplay between multiple interacting domains and systems and the ways in which they extend their influence beyond the individual into the surrounding environment. The developmental cascades perspective suggests that even relatively small perturbations in early emerging behaviors in domains that are not traditionally linked may influence subsequent achievements across these areas. In this chapter, we illustrate how a developmental cascades framework can be used to inform the study of developmental differences. The developmental cascades perspective provides us with conceptual and methodological tools for considering how variation in children's real time behavior can provide new insights into sources of variation in their developmental trajectories and outcomes. It also suggests approaches for intervention that leverage targeted skills in novel ways, creating opportunities to support development in other domains and fine-tune caregiver behavior to create powerful moments for infant learning.