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Autistic Disorder, most commonly called “autism,” was first defined in the 1940s.  In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association rewrote the diagnostic code, and discontinued the use of the term in favor of the label Autism Spectrum Disorders. The criteria used to diagnose autism prior to 2013 are presented below:

An individual who would be diagnosed with Autisic Disorder would demonstrate at least 2 of the items listed in the social interaction impairments group, at least one from the communication group, and at least one from the restricted interests group, and at least six indicators across categories, with onset prior to the age of 3.  Schizophrenia must also be ruled out.


What is Autism?

• Marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction.  

• Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level.

• A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people    

• Lack of social or emotional reciprocity.

Social Interaction Impairments Group:

• Delay in, or total lack of development of spoken language not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communications such as gesture or mime.

• Stereotyped or repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language.

• Lack of varied, spontaneous make believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level.

• In individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others.

Communication Impairment Group:

• Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped andrestrictedpatternsof interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus.

• Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects.  

• Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals.


• Stereotyped and repetitive motor manners (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements).

Restricted Interests and Repetitive Behavior Group: