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Autism Spectrum Disorders

What are Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a category that includes a group of developmental disorders with similar features but differing severities and patterns.  Below are the current ASD categories:

Autistic disorder is also called “classic autism.”

Asperger Syndrome is often described as “high-functioning autism,” and is seen as similar to a non-verbal learning disability. People with asperger syndrome have normal intelligence and language development, but also have some autistic-like traits. They may have trouble with social skills, sensory input, and making transitions, and may need rigid routines.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (or atypical autism) means having differences in some of the same areas as in autism, only not to such a great extent. A person with PDD-NOS does not meet the criteria for any other specific pervasive developmental disorder or ASD.

In some cases, health care providers use a broader term, pervasive developmental disorder, to describe autism.  This category includes the autism spectrum disorders above, plus Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Rett syndrome.

This video is intended for use by college students with Asperger Syndrome to educate their professors and teaching assistants about what it means to be a college student on the autism spectrum and how they can help promote success.

What is Autism?

Autism is the most common autism spectrum disorder.  It is a developmental disorder that is characterized by impaired development in social interaction, communication and behavior. Signs of autism arise before the age of three, yet this disorder continues through adulthood.

Symptoms may include problems in:

  • Social interactions and relationships
    • Problems developing non-verbal communication skills such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body posture
    • Failure to establish and maintain friendships
    • Lack of interest in sharing enjoyment and interests with others
    • Lack of empathy
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication
    • Problems taking steps to start a conversation or maintain a conversation
    • Stereotyped and repetitive use of language, such as repeating phrases over and over again
    • Difficulty understanding other’s perspectives, such as understanding humor, sarcasm, and irony
  • Limited interest in activities and play
    • Stereotyped behaviors such as body rocking or hand flapping
    • Need for sameness and routines
    • Preoccupation with stereotyped patterns of interest abnormal in intensity or focus
    • Preoccupation with parts or objects

Want to learn more about autism?

Check out these resources:

Are you concerned that you may have autism?

See our resource database for a list of books, websites, and local options for seeking professional evaluations and treatment.

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