Characteristics of ASD
Autism Speaks, a private organization dedicated to the research of autism, states that “There is no one type of autism.” 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). Some researchers explain that the increase in the prevalence of ASD is due to the expanded definition of ASD. 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.
DSM-5 describes two main characteristics of ASD:
- Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts.
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.
 “DSM–5 and Diagnoses for Children [pdf],” DSM–5 Fact Sheets, American Psychiatric Association, last accessed March 3, 2019. https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm/educational-resources/dsm-5-fact-sheets; DSM-5 is the standard reference that healthcare providers use to diagnose mental and behavioral conditions, including autism.
 Shaun Heasley, “Autism Surge Due To Diagnostic Changes, Analysis Finds,” Disability Scoop, last modified June 29, 2012, https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2012/06/29/autism-surge-analysis/15957/.
 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).
 Baio, Wiggins, Christensen, et al., “Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder.”