Autism spectrum disorder

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By Caroline DiBattisto MD

Autistic spectrum disorder is also known as or subsumes Autism and Pervasive developmental disorder. -ed.

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by significant impairment in social communication, repetitive behaviors, restricted interests, and hyper- or hyposensitivity to sensory stimuli. The new criterion for autism spectrum disorder was published in May 2013 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5). The previous subtypes (autistic disorder, Asperger disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified) are now referred to as autism spectrum disorder. In this clinical summary, Dr. Caroline DiBattisto of Georgia Regents University describes the clinical features of autism spectrum disorder and summarizes recent research regarding etiology, pathogenesis, genetics, diagnosis, and management.

Key Points

  • Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by social communication impairment, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors.
  • In 2014 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new surveillance data that identified 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) as having autism spectrum disorder.
  • Autism spectrum disorder is complex with no single or precise etiology.
  • Early identification and behavioral treatment lead to better outcomes.
  • Pharmacological treatment targets problem behaviors such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, aggression, and perseverative or anxious behaviors.

In This Article

Historical note and nomenclature
Clinical manifestations
Clinical vignette
Pathogenesis and pathophysiology
Differential diagnosis
Diagnostic workup
Prognosis and complications
References cited