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An autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects one in every five hundred children. These children demonstrate deficits in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. A milder form of this condition is known as Asperger syndrome. Treatment depends on the specific disorder, but often includes medications.
What Is an Autism Spectrum Disorder?Not until the middle of the 20th century was there a name for a disorder that now appears to affect an estimated 1 out of every 500 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 (ASD).
All of these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills; social interactions; and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.
Types of Autism Spectrum DisordersThe 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, severe disorders that are included in the autism spectrum disorders are childhood disintegrative disorder and Rett syndrome.