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Autistic Disorder (Autism)

Psychological Disorder

Autism is a developmental disorder that typically appears during the first three years of life and may be the result of a neurological disorder that affects the brain. Autism is classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a Pervasive Development Disorder (APA, 1994). It is defined by symptoms that appear before the age of three which reflect delayed or abnormal development in Language, Social Skills and Behavioral Repertoire.

Autistic disorder symptoms manifest themselves as follows:

The person fulfills a total of at least 6 criteria from the following 3 lists, distributed as indicated:

Impaired social interaction (at least 2):

Markedly deficient regulation of social interaction by using multiple non-verbal behaviors such as eye contact, facial expression, body posture and gestures.

Lack of peer relationships that are appropriate to the developmental level.

Doesn't seek to share achievements, interests or pleasure with others.

Lacks social or emotional reciprocity.

Impaired communication (at least 1):

Delayed or absent development of spoken language for which the patient doesn't try to compensate with gestures.

In person's who can speak, inadequate attempts to begin or sustain a conversation.

Language that is repetitive, stereotyped or idiosyncratic.

Appropriate to developmental stage, absence of social imitative play or spontaneous, make-believe play.

Activities, behavior and interests that are repetitive, restricted and stereotyped (at least 1 of):

Preoccupation with abnormal (in focus or intensity) interests that are restricted and stereotyped (such as spinning things).

Rigidly sticks to routines or rituals that don't appear to have a function.

Has stereotyped, repetitive motor mannerisms, such as hand flapping.

Persistently preoccupied with parts of objects.

Before age three, the person shows delayed or abnormal functioning in 1 or more of these areas:

Social interaction.

Language used in social communication.

Imaginative or symbolic play.

These symptoms are not better explained by Childhood Disintegrative Disorder or Rett's Disorder.

Associated Features:

Learning Problem
Dysarthria or Involuntary Movement
Odd or Eccentric or Suspicious Personality
Anxious or Fearful or Dependent Personality

Differential Diagnosis:

Some disorders have similar symptoms. The clinician, therefore, in his diagnostic attempt has to differentiate against the following disorders which need to be ruled out to establish a precise diagnosis.

Rett's Disorder;
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder;
Asperger's Disorder;
Selective Mutism;
Expressive Language Disorder;
Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder;
Mental Retardation;
Stereotypic Movement Habit Disorder.


The exact cause or causes of autism is/are still not known but research shows that genetic factors are important. It is also evident from research that autism is associated with a variety of conditions affecting brain development which occur before, during, or very soon after birth. See Asperger's Disorder


Treatment of this disorder is very difficult and prolonged. Parents, teachers, and therapists work together in coordinated efforts to encourage social adjustment and speech development in the child. Positive reinforcement techniques such as offering food for appropriate behavior or language responses have been successful in promoting skills. Treatment may be in an institution, specialized school, day-care setting, or in the home. Family members may need counseling because they often feel guilty or inadequate. Treatments such as dietary modification and vitamin therapies, medication, music therapy, colored or prism lenses, auditory training, sensory integration, social skills programming, speech therapy.

Counseling and Psychotherapy [ See Therapy Section ]:

Intensive behavior modification programmes such as; Behavior Analysis and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

DSM Code

299.00 Autistic Disorder

F84.0 Childhood Autism.
F84.1 Atypical Autism.

Disorder Sheets

Autism Unravelled

3 Palmera Avenue
RG31 7DZ
Tel: :0118 961 5967
E-mail: Click Here

The National Autistic Society
393 City Road
London EC1V 1NG, UK
Tel: +448450704004
Help Line: +448450704004
Email: Click Here
Website: Click Here


Recommended Book

Asperger's Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals - Click Here to View


Autistic Disorder (Autism)

Misc Information

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