Autism Spectrum Disorder

Lauren Adams

Summary and Descrption


Autism spectrum disorder is neurdevelopmental in nature and is characterized by difficulty with social interactions and communication, as well as a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. A combination, or all of these symptoms may be present, and in varying severities across each area (ASHA, Autism). Individuals with ASD may also exhibit behaviors such as hyper and/or hypo sensitivity to various sensory inputs, and restricted interests or involvement in activities (ASHA, Autism). Autism Spectrum Disorder is typically labeled in terms of "mild" to "severe." Individuals who are identified as having challenges that are more mild in nature are typically more verbal and exhibit less restricted behaviors. In contrast, individuals who are are identified as having challenges that are more severe in nature would have characteristics such as more restricted use of language or perhaps even be nonverbal, and could exhibit more restricted behaviors, and sensitivities to sensory inputs (Autism Speaks, Inc., 2015).

Diagnostic Criteria

According to the DSM-V, diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder involves identifying:

A. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by (examples are not exhaustive):

1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.

2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.

3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.

B. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following: (examples are not exhaustive)

1. Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypies, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).

2. Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns or verbal nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat food every day).

3. Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g, strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interest).

4. Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).

C. Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life)

D. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning

E. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level

Note: Individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals who have marked deficits in social communication, but whose symptoms do not otherwise meet criteria for autism spectrum disorder, should be evaluated for social (pragmatic) communication disorder.

Specify if:
With or without accompanying intellectual impairment
With or without accompanying language impairment
Associated with a known medical or genetic condition or environmental factor

This information was obtained from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), as well as

Classifications of Severity

The chart below, taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), shows the classifications of severity for ASD.
Big image


According to the Center for Disease Control, as of 2010, about 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2014).


There is no known cause of ASD, although scientists believe there may be genetic and/or environmental influences on the presence of the disorder. Other contributing factors include gender. Research indicates that ASD is more common in males than in females (Chakrabarti & Fombonne, 2005). ASD also has also shown a higher rate of incidence in identical twins than in fraternal twins (Bailey et al., 1995).

Key Characteristics of ASD

- social communication:

-failure to respond to their name

-limited eye contact

-limited social interaction with peers

-difficulty seeing things from another persons perspective

- trouble taking turns

- deficits in joint attention


-trouble expressing wants/needs

- troubles maintaining conversation topic

- impaired acquisition of words and word combinations

- impaired use and understanding of verbal and nonverbal language

- difficulty interpreting body language, facial expressions, emotions

- conversational deficits such as taking turns or preference of topics of special interest

- literacy deficits such as understanding narratives

-Repetitive Behaviors

-Unusual repetitive behaviors (hand flapping, rocking back and forth, repeating sounds)

- Restricted range of activities or interests (lining toys up in a certain way, for adults: keeping a desk in very specific set up or manner)

- some children/adults with ASD can exhibit a special interest in numbers, dates, days, etc.

- some children/adults with ASD can have astonishing amount of knowledge on certain topics

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Autism (Practice Portal). Retrieved April, 10, 2015, from

Autism Speaks, Inc. (2015). Retrieved from:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (Feb, 2015). Retrieved April, 10, 2015, from


National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved April, 10, 2015, from

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Autism (Practice Portal). Retrieved April, 10, 2015, from

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Autism (Practice Portal). Retrieved April, 10, 2015, from

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Autism (Practice Portal). Retrieved April, 10, 2015, from

Autism Speaks, Inc. (2015). Retrieved from:

Autism Speaks, Inc. (2015). Retrieve from:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Bailey, A., Le Couteur, A., Gottesman, I., Bolton, P., Simonoff, E., Yuzda, E., & Rutter, M. (1995). Autism as a strongly genetic disorder: Evidence from a British twin study. Psychological Medicine,25(01), 63–77

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (Feb, 2015). Retrieved April, 10, 2015, from

Chakrabarti, S., & Fombonne, E. (2005). Pervasive developmental disorders in preschool children: Confirmation of high prevalence.American Journal of Psychiatry 162, 1133–1141.