Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (formerly Asperger’s Syndrome) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is continuous and lifelong. It is listed under the Neurodevelopmental Disorders chapter in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) of the American Psychiatric Association.

AS is characterized by the following:
• an inability to use multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures for social interaction
• lack of social or emotional reciprocity
• social impairment and difficulty developing peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
• a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people
• clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements
• repetitive routines or rituals
• speech and language peculiarities
• excellent rote memory and musical ability
• intensely interested in one or two subjects (sometimes to the exclusion of other topics)
• talks at length about a favorite subject or repeat a word or phrase many times
• diagnosed much more frequently in males than females

Most individuals with AS can learn to cope with their differences, but may continue to need support to maintain an independent life. It is possible for an individual to learn how to manage the symptoms and become capable of gainful employment and development of relationships.

AS was originally named in honor of Hans Asperger, an Austrian psychiatrist and pediatrician, by researcher Lorna Wing, who first used the term “Asperger’s Syndrome” in a 1981 paper. In 1994, AS was recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as Asperger’s Disorder.