What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Condition and Asperger Syndrome are lifelong neurodevelopmental conditions.


An individual with Autism or Asperger’s may have difficulties with social communication, interaction, and imagination.​


Autism is part of a spectrum. This means that every individual may experience the same difficulties, but these difficulties may affect them in different ways.


Autism is diagnosed using different criterias, the DSM-5 is often used as a diagnostic tool. Please note that you cannot use this tool to diagnose yourself, only a medical professional can do so.


DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria
 

A.      Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive, see text):
 

     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.
 

Specify current severity:
 

Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted repetitive patterns of behavior (see Table 2).
 

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

     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).
 

Specify current severity:
 

Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted repetitive patterns of behavior (see Table 2).
 

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
- Associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder
- With catatonia



  

Table 2: Severity levels for Autism Spectrum Disorder

What to do about it

If you suspect that you or someone you know may have Autism, please contact your GP or see a medical professional. The Autism & Asperger Society cannot provide medical advice or a diagnosis.


The Autism & Asperger Society may be able to provide you with more information about Autism Spectrum Condition, the typical associated behaviours or associated issues. 


If you already have a diagnosis of Autism or Asperger Syndrome, pop into the society on Hall Street, have a chat, become a member!