Autism: What Is It?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that impacts a child’s development in two core areas: the first is social communication and social interaction, and the second is restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Although a child has ASD from birth, it may not come to attention until social demands exceed a child’s limitations.

In the psychiatric community, thinking about autism has changed, as reflected in the new DSM-5 guidelines. What had been considered a set of distinct conditions described as pervasive developmental disorders — autism, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD), and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) — are now considered one disorder that presents along a spectrum of symptoms and behaviors of varying severity.

1 in 59 children are diagnosed with ASD. Boys are diagnosed with ASD around 3 to 4 times more often than girls.