Autism Spectrum Disorders

Topic Overview

Once know as pervasive developmental disorders, autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is an umbrella term used to define a class of disorders.

Disorders that are included in this class are:

Until recently, people were diagnosed with one of the types of ASD. For example, a person was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. Now, the diagnosis of ASD is used, and the severity of the condition is noted.

Some children do not meet the diagnostic criteria for an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) but still may have developmental and behavioural problems that are similar to those found in ASDs. These problems include abnormal sensitivities and unusual behavioural responses to certain situations. In these cases, a diagnosis of unspecified neurodevelopmental disorder may be used.

Children with (ASDs) have difficulty in areas of social and emotional development, including:

  • Developing relationships with other people, including their parents and children their own age.
  • Communicating with other people.
  • Having unusual behaviours and interests.

The severity of an ASD varies by individual. Severely affected children are unable to function without significant help from parents and other caregivers. Other children are mildly affected and can develop adequate skills to lead independent lives as adults. Many children are affected at levels somewhere between these two extremes.

Autism spectrum disorders are present at birth. But the signs of these disorders may not be noticed until later, usually during the first 3 years of a child's life.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff

Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics

Thomas M. Bailey, MD - Family Medicine

Specialist Medical Reviewer Fred Volkmar, MD - Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Current as ofNovember 14, 2014