ASD is a complex neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in life and affects how a person acts and interacts with others, communicates, and learns. ASD affects the structure and function of the brain and nervous system. Because it affects development, ASD is called a developmental disorder. ASD can last throughout a person's life.
People with this disorder have problems with:1
Different people with autism can have different symptoms. For this reason, autism is known as a spectrum disorder—which means that there is a range of similar features in different people with the disorder.1 This website uses "ASD" and "autism" to mean the same thing.
In giving a diagnosis of ASD, a health care provider will also specify whether the person also has:1
In May 2013, a new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the common manual health care providers use to diagnose different mental health conditions, was released. The DSM-5 made significant changes to how autism is classified.
Now: Under the DSM-5, someone with more severe autism symptoms and someone with less severe autism symptoms both have the same disorder: ASD.
Then: In the previous version of the DSM, ASD was a category and there were four types of autism within the category. These were:2
Autistic disorder ("classic" autism)
Health care providers no longer use these terms to describe someone with ASD.
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