Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history
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):
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).
Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.
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.
Autism spectrum disorder used to go by others names such as autism, Asperger's disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder. All of these diagnosis terms are now lumped into a single category.
Autism spectrum disorder is one of those diagnoses where two people could qualify for this diagnosis and appear completely different with a different set of symptoms. Bearing that in mind, there are a few key markers that might help identify autism spectrum individuals.
One of the easiest to spot symptoms is an uncomfortableness or inability to look people in the eye. This is different that just being socially shy – this is an individual who can sit in front of you and talk to you and stare at the floor or the wall the entire time and looking you in the eye is a great pain for them. In fact, they usually don't understand why looking people in the eye is anything important that they need to do.
Another symptom that can stand out is an inability to understand the emotions of others. This might look like someone who says things socially inappropriate and even when prompted to identify emotion in others they probably have a very tough time doing so. Often times their humor is funny to them but lost on their peers or co-workers.
These individuals might also have a hobby or a pastime that occupies the large part of their time and thought process. This activity is usually childish and can appear immature for their age. Examples would be an adult who spends all of his time daydreaming about toy trains.
Other symptoms would be a general misunderstanding of social norms, such as lack of personal space, lack of personal hygiene, inappropriate comments, lack of empathy or lack of desire to engage in activities with others.
It is not completely clear what causes autism spectrum disorders, but genetics seem to play a large role. In individuals with autism spectrum disorder, there is a link with brain function and brain organization. If a scan were to be taken of an autistic brain, there would be noticeably different structures, shapes and functions.
Environmental factors are still being investigated and there is research that suggests that toxins in the environment while our brains are developing can cause autism. Heavy metals and mercury are on top of the list for possibilities.
There is no known cure for autism. Current treatment helps individuals to cope with symptoms and to encourage further development. Treatment varies by level of severity as some individuals with autism spectrum disorder are unable to communicate.
Applied behavioral therapies are the current suggested form of treatment for autistic individuals. Applied behavioral analysis is a form of treatment that focuses on the positive reward for learning. As individuals learn new skills they are immediately rewarded. Such trainings usually focus on social skills and other adaptive skills to help the individual be more independent or to aid in communication.
Diet modifications have been shown to be helpful, such as the addition of vitamins, pro-biotic supplements, immune system regulations and more.