In this paper a number of primarily cognitive theories about the genesis of the autistic syndrome is reviewed. Abnormal reactivity to sensory stimulation and rigid ritualistic behavior seem to be tentral symptoms in the autistic syndrome. It is argued that cognitive theories have ignored those symptoms, and so it is concluded that the cognitivistic point of view is of limited relevance in explaining autistic behavior.
A psychophysiological frame of reference is proposed. From this point of view the author arrives at some hypotheses about the genesis of the autistic syndrome. Autistic children would experience great difficulties in regulating their arousal-level; some of them are over-aroused and fail to habituate on stimuli, others are under-aroused and don't respond to any stimulation at all. An exploratory psychophysiological study confirms part of the posed hypotheses.