Dr Sumaya Mall, senior lecturer, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Wits University

The slides for this lecture are available in PowerPoint or as a PDF.

To view a video of this lecture, click here.

The term autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a group of complex disorders that affect the nervous system. ASD, which is thought to affect about one per cent of the global population, is characterised by a range of symptoms including deficits in social interaction and communication, interest in repetitive behavioural patterns, gastrointestinal problems and possible functional and occupational impairment. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, physical health issues as well as excellence in the fields of mathematics and music. Individuals with ASD are said to have deficits in theory of mind or the inability to empathise.

This double lecture is interdisciplinary and will cover a number of aspects of ASD: it will touch on the theory of mind hypothesis of ASD, and relay some of the latest insights into ASD from the field of neuroscience. Theories and explanations will be given for the increase in new diagnoses of ASD from an epidemiological perspective, including causes. Finally, examples of ASD in popular culture and how these can inform ASD awareness will be discussed.


Please note that the duration of this course is two hours.

Recommended reading

Baron-Cohen, S. 1995. Mindblindness. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Haddon, M. 2004. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. London: Vintage.

Silberman, S. 2015. NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter about People Who Think Differently. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.



Date: Saturday 21 January                                  .
Time: 10.00–12.00 pm
COURSE FEES Full: R193,00  Staff: R95,00  Reduced: R50,00