Characteristics of ASD

Autism Speaks, a private organization dedicated to the research of autism, states that “There is no one type of autism.”[1] It further explains, “Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges.” The diagnosis of ASD has changed over the years. In the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association, four disorders are incorporated into the big umbrella of autism spectrum disorder: autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and the catch-all diagnosis of pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOP).[2] Some researchers explain that the increase in the prevalence of ASD is due to the expanded definition of ASD.[3]  However, ADDM Network specifically clarifies that “implementation of the new DSM-5 case definition had little effect on the overall number of children identified with ASD for the ADDM 2014 surveillance year.” According to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics, some of the increase was the result of diagnoses of children who were previously not recognized to have ASD.[4]

     DSM-5 describes two main characteristics of ASD:[5]

  1. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts.
  2. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.


[1]What is Autism?” Autism Speaks,, last accessed March 6, 2019.

[2]DSM–5 and Diagnoses for Children [pdf],” DSM–5 Fact Sheets, American Psychiatric Association, last accessed March 3, 2019.; DSM-5 is the standard reference that healthcare providers use to diagnose mental and behavioral conditions, including autism.

[3] Shaun Heasley, “Autism Surge Due To Diagnostic Changes, Analysis Finds,” Disability Scoop, last modified June 29, 2012,

[4] Stephen J Blumberg, Matthew D Bramlett, Michael D Kogan, Laura A Schieve, Jessica R Jones, and Michael C Lu, “Changes in Prevalence of Parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder in School-aged U.S. Children: 2007 to 2011-2012,” National Health Statistics Reports, no. 65 (2013).

[5] Baio, Wiggins, Christensen, et al., “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder.”