More on limited interaction

Limitations in social interaction (and somewhat in communication too) manifest themselves in behavior which can be summarized in four types (after Lorna Wing):

Aloof, the most common type. They close themselves for contact with others, often act indifferently, show little facial expression and might not enjoy light touch but do respond to rough and tumble play.

Passive, the least common type. They make no spontaneous contact, except to show their needs, accept social approaches but initiate few. They have the least problems in childhood but some develop behavior problems in adolescence.

Active but odd, who make active approaches but have no real understanding of how to interact socially. Tend to be very tactile.

Over-formal, stilted, often a pattern only seen in adolescence. They try very hard to behave right and well but have no true understanding of social rules. Tend to be very rigid about sticking to rules they learned.

The above behavior types fit best the classical ‘autistic disorder’ which we loosely term ‘kanner-autism’. For the same group, general social limitations may be characterized as:

  • An inability to respond to social cues
  • Inappropriately intrusive in social situations
  • Problems with turn-taking
  • Difficulty establishing and maintaining eye contact
  • Trouble with back and forth social interactions.

(List derived from Wilkinson.)

As with much problems on the autism spectrum, those of kanner-autism are generally on the severe end of it. Most others on the spectrum only have part of these difficulties or handicaps and usually to a lesser degree.


Lorna Wing
Wing, L., The autistic spectrum. London, Constable, 1996.
Wilkinson, Lee A., A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools, London and Philadelphia, Kingsley Publishers, 2010.