Disruption to embodiment in autism, and its repair

Jonathan Delafield-Butt, Dunbar Penelope, Colwyn Trevarthen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper offers a neuroscientific explanation of life with autism which recognises that human behaviour and experience is by nature both personal and interpersonal. With a focus on insights of Penelope Dunbar (Pum) who has lived with autism for decades, we explore an affective neuroscience understanding of autistic experience and how to work creatively with its impulses for health and personal development. Pum describes her autistic disruptions to the intra-personal coherence of her basic states of being, moving-with-feeling in self-awareness, and how this disturbance to her internal subjective coherence of mind challenges her capacity to self-regulate arousal, and communicate with others. By examination of the source of her problems in childhood and ways of working with them, Pum has clarified fundamental elements in the development of her capacity to regulate self-care in creative efforts that facilitate both affective embodiment and sensory-motor coherence in growth of understanding in her mind and body. With her advice we explore how current neurobiological insights in autism as a disruption to the regulation of affective embodiment and sensory-motor integration leads to new recommendations for therapeutic care to relieve autistic distress and restricted modes of being. Although particular to her circumstances and cultivated habits of autistic expression, this analysis offers insight into the fundamental nature of autism, and ways of positive working with one’s autistic nature for creative gains.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmerging Programs for Autism Spectrum Disorder
Subtitle of host publicationImproving Communication, Behavior, and Family Dynamics
EditorsNeophytos Papaneophytou, Undurti Das
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021


  • autism
  • affective neuroscience
  • embodiment
  • self-regulation
  • art
  • movement


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