What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder now includes both Asperger Syndrome (AS) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD-NOS) as of 2013 when the new diagnostic manual was released (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Fifth Edition). Both AS and PDD-NOS are no longer stand-alone diagnosis, but are part of the Autism Spectrum (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurological disorder where sustained deficits in social interaction and reciprocal social communication, and restrictive or repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities are present. These areas of deficit are existent in early childhood and limit or impair everyday functioning. The time when the impairment in functioning becomes noticeable depends on the person’s characteristics of impairment or everyday environment. The core diagnostic features are present in the developmental period, but different forms of interventions, compensations and/ or supports might mask some of the difficulties in some contexts (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Why is Autism called a SPECTRUM?

Autism is called a “spectrum” since the way that it manifests in different people vary according to their chronological age, developmental age, and severity in autism traits (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

How early can Autism Spectrum Disorder be noticeable or diagnosed?

You typically can notice the symptoms between 12-24 months, but depending on severity of developmental delays, they can be detected prior to 12 months. If the symptoms are subtle, they can be noticed past the 24 months period. Patterns that are noticeable are either delays in development or losses either in social or language skills. This gradual loss primarily discovered by either parents or caregivers occurs between 12-24 months, but can also occur after the age of 2 even though rare (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Common comorbidities

  • Learning Disabilities
  • Attention Deficit Disorder/ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Global Developmental Delay/ Intellectual Disabilities
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Tourette Syndrome
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • Mood Disorders
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Rutter, M., Le Couteur, A., & Lord, C. (2005).Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised. Los Angeles : Western Psychological Services.