Diagnostic Criteria

A. A total of six (or more) items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3): 

(1) qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following: 
(a) 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 
(b) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level 
(c) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest) 
(d) lack of social or emotional reciprocity 

(2) qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following: 
(a) delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime) 
(b) in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others 
(c) stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language 
(d) lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level 

(3) restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following: 
(a) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus 
(b) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals 
(c) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements) 
(d) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects 

B. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years: (1) social interaction, (2) language as used in social communication, or (3) symbolic or imaginative play. 

C. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Rett’s Disorder or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).


Individuals with Autism may have other disorders which affect the functioning of the brain, such as epilepsy, Mental Retardation, and genetic disorders, such as Fragile X syndrome (Pathfinders for Autism, 2007). The behaviors exhibited by children on the autism spectrum are frequently the most troubling aspect of the condition for parents and caregivers. These behaviors may be socially inappropriate, repetitive, or dangerous (ASA National, 2007).

Individuals with Autism may exhibit repeated body movements, (called “self stimulatory behaviors”), have sensory integration difficulties, have unusual responses to people/stimuli and attachments to objects, resist changes in routine, and engage in aggressive and/or self-injurous behavior (MSDE, 2004, p.3). Language difficulties may contribute to behavioral problems for a child with Autism (because of an inability to use language to effectively communicate his/her needs). Many treatment approaches have been developed to address the range of social, language, sensory, and behavioral difficulties that may accompany this condition (ASA National, 2007).

Although we don’t know why, autism is four to five times more prevalent in boys than girls, and knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle, and level of education do not affect the rate of occurrence.   



  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (Revised 4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
  2. Autism Society of America National
  3. Centers for Disease Control
  4. MSDE Task Force Report
  5. Pathfinders for Autism


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