Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5; published in May 2013), autistic disorder, Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) are now classified as autism spectrum disorders. Autism spectrum disorders share some symptoms with autism and involve some impairment of social/communication skills, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors.

Additional distinctions are made according to severity levels that are based on the amount of support needed (e.g., level 1, level 2, level 3). With effective education and special training to help manage the challenges, many children with autism spectrum disorder can grow to lead happy, productive, and healthy lives.

Incidence & Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 88 children in the United States has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism spectrum disorders affect boys more often than girls, and siblings of children with ASD are at increased risk.

Autism Spectrum Disorders Risk Factors & Causes

At this time, the risk factors and causes of autism spectrum disorders are unknown. Because siblings of children with ASD are more likely to have the condition, the disorders are believed to have a genetic (inherited) component.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 05 Jul 2007

Last Modified: 01 Sep 2015