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What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism spectrum disorder is a persistent deficit in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, including:

  • Social-emotional reciprocity, ranging from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversations to reduced sharing of interests, emotions and affect
  • Nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction
  • Developing, maintaining and understanding relationships

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder experience restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities as manifested by at least two of the following:

  • Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (lining up toys, flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases)
  • Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines or ritualized patterns of verbal and nonverbal behavior
  • Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus
  • Hyper- or hypo- reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment

These symptoms must be present in the early developmental period for an individual to be considered within the autism spectrum. Autism symptoms can cause significant impairment in an individual’s overall functioning, such as an intellectual disability or developmental delay.