What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

Updated: Sep 30, 2019
  • Author: James Robert Brasic, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) manifests in early childhood and is characterized by qualitative abnormalities in social interactions, markedly aberrant communication skills, and restricted repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities (RRBs). ASD is the broad current designation for a group of conditions with deficits in social interaction and communication and RRBs. ASD includes a variety of disorders that have been called autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, and fragile X syndrome. Further information about the subtypes can be located in the articles for each condition. Readers can benefit from recognizing that the terms "autism" and "autistic disorder" have been used to describe ASD. "Pervasive developmental disorder" had been used to describe disorders including ASD and conditions with some traits characteristic of autism. Asperger syndrome refers to high-functioning individuals with ASD; these are people who have normal or superior intellectual abilities. People with Asperger syndrome may lack the communication abnormalities characteristic of ASD. Rett syndrome and fragile X syndrome are genetic conditions with characteristic findings in addition to ASD. People with Rett syndrome and fragile X syndrome may or may not also exhibit ASD or autistic traits. The development of techniques to help people with ASD attain favorable educational and occupational outcomes in community settings provide opportunities for the successful lives of people with ASD and their families. [1]

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