Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills, social interactions, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. The disorders range from a severe form (called autistic disorder) to a milder form (Asperger syndrome). Often, ASDs can be reliably detected by the age of 3, and in some cases as early as 18 months.
What Are Autism Spectrum Disorders?Not until the middle of the twentieth century was there a name for a disorder that now appears to affect an estimated one of every five hundred children, a disorder that causes disruption in families and unfulfilled lives for many children.
In 1943, Dr. Leo Kanner of the Johns Hopkins Hospital studied a group of 11 children and introduced the label "early infantile autism" into the English language. At the same time a German scientist, Dr. Hans Asperger, described a milder form of the disorder that became known as Asperger syndrome.
Thus these two disorders were described and are today listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM-IV-TR (fourth edition, text revision)] as two of the five pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), more often referred to today as autism spectrum disorders.
All these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills, social interactions, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.
TypesThe pervasive developmental disorders, or autism spectrum disorders, range from a severe form, called autistic disorder, to a milder form known as Asperger syndrome.
If a child has symptoms of either of these disorders, but does not meet the specific criteria for either, the diagnosis is called pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
Other rare, very severe disorders that are included in the autism spectrum disorders are Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder.