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Prof. Tony Attwood

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Prof. Tony Attwood

Clinical Mentor

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Tony was born in Birmingham in the United Kingdom in 1952, and first became interested in psychology at the age of 14 years.  

His professional qualifications are an Honours degree in Psychology from the University of Hull; a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Surrey; and PhD from the University of London, where Professor Uta Frith was his supervisor.

He first became interested in what we now call Autism Spectrum Disorders or ASD in 1971. He worked as a volunteer during the summer vacation at a local special school in Sutton Coldfield and met two young children with autism. He found their unusual behaviour quite bewildering and he felt a deep compassion for the challenges they faced and became determined to specialize in autism and become an expert in understanding and helping children and adults who have autism. Having been recognised as an expert gives him a great sense of satisfaction and is an excellent anti-dote to having a mid-life crisis.

His interest in Asperger’s Syndrome evolved by following the same path as Lorna Wing, namely noticing children who had the classic profile of the silent and aloof child in their pre-school years, subsequently developing fluent speech and intellectual abilities in the normal range. Yet these children still had an unusual profile of social reasoning and linguistic skills and an unusually intense interest in a specific topic. Their profile of abilities was not adequately described by the criteria for autism as described by Leo Kanner but was consistent with the profile described by Hans Asperger. The original assumption was that such children were rare but the benefits of modern intensive early intervention programs means that this is the prognosis for a greater number of children who had classic autistic features when they were very young. 

An unexpected finding was that once we started to explore this section of the autism spectrum it soon became apparent that the majority of children with Asperger’s Syndrome did not have a prior diagnosis of autism. The characteristic profile of abilities and behaviour was not apparent until the child attended school and in this new social context and with age peers, the signs were conspicuous. Teachers and professionals also became more aware of the distinct profile that identifies the syndrome.

His original book on Asperger's Syndrome, Asperger’s Syndrome: A guide for parents and professionals was based on the notes of a workshop he had been presenting to parents and professionals. He realised that the information should become more widely available and decided to transform the notes to text.  

The book has now been translated into 28 languages. 

His subsequent publications have primarily been in the area of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) for emotion management for children and adolescents who have Asperger’s syndrome. 

In the last few years he has learned so much more about Asperger's syndrome, especially the value of Special Interests in the daily life of those who have Asperger’s syndrome, relationships where one partner has Asperger's syndrome and the characteristics of girls and women who have Asperger’s syndrome.

He has been appointed adjunct Professor at Griffith University in Queensland.

His current clinical interests are:

  • How girls with Asperger’s syndrome adjust to the profile of abilities and experiences associated with ASD.
  • The constructive use of special interests in the daily life of those with an ASD.
  • Helping the typical child who has a parent with the characteristics of Asperger’s syndrome.
  • Improving the self-esteem of adolescents who have Asperger’s syndrome.
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to treat depression in adolescents and adults who have Asperger’s syndrome.
  • Developing the expertise of his colleagues at the Minds and Hearts clinic in Brisbane.