ASD 101: Beginner’s Guide To Autism Spectrum Disorder

infographic titled what is autism spectrum disorder. text description is below the infographic.

If you want to learn the basics of Autism Spectrum Disorder, this infographic should give you a good understanding of what is is, what are the experiences of people who have it, signs and symptoms, some statistics, history, therapies available for it, as well as some famous people who are on the spectrum. Text version is right below the infographic.

infographic titled what is autism spectrum disorder. text description is below the infographic.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Individuals with austism spectrum disorder often experience:

  1. Difficulties in social & emotional connections.
  2. Failure to hold a back and forth conversation or initiate or respond to social interactions (like poor eye contact)
  3. Difficulties in using or understanding gestures and sometimes a total lack of facial expression.
  4. Highly fixated interests including a preoccupation with unusual objects.
  5. Difficulties in reacting to sensory input including indifference to pain and temperature and excessive touching or smelling of objects.
  6. Difficulties in imaginative play, making friends, and a lack of interest in peers.
  7. Repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities like repetitive motor movements. (lining up toys, repeating vocalizations of others)
  8. Insistence on sameness including extreme distress at small changes and difficulties with transitions.

1 in 50 school aged children had parent reported ASD in 2011-2012, which was a doubling of the prevalence in the last five years.

School ages boys are 4X more likely to have ASD compared to school aged girls.

In families with one child with ASD there is a 5% risk of having another child with ASD.

If one twin has ASD there is a 90% chance that the other twin also have ASD.

60% of ASD is reported as mild, 35% as moderate, and 7% as severe by parents.

What are the possible signs of Autistic Disorder?

  1. Does not babble or coo by 12 months of age.
  2. Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp, etc.) by 12 months of age.
  3. Does not say single words by 16 months of age.
  4. Does not say two-word phrases on his or her own (rather than just repeating what someone says to him or her) by 24 months of age.
  5. Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age.
  6. The child does not respond to his/her name.Language skills or speech are delayed.
  7. The child does not follow directions.
  8. The child seems to hear sometimes, but not others.

Specific Disorders in the Autism Spectrum Disorder Category of DSM 5 include:

Autistic Disorder: Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development od social and communication skills.

Asperger’s Disorder: Asperger’s disorder is often considered a high functioning form of autism. It can lead to difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and clumsiness.

Rett’s Disorder: Rett’s disorder is a disorder of the nervous system that leads to developmental reversals, especially in the areas of expressive language and hand use.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS): A diagnosis that is used for “severe and pervasive impairment in the development of reciprocal social interaction or verbal and nonverbal communication skills, or when stereotypes behavior, interests, and activities are present, but the criteria are not met for a specific PDD” for several other disorders.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder: Childhood disintegrative disorder is a condition in which children develop normally through age 3 or 4. Then, over a few months, children lose language, motor, social, and other skills that they already learned.

The History of Autism

1911: A Swiss psychiatrist named Eugene Bleuler was the first person to use the term. He started using it around 1911 to refer to one group of symptoms of schizophrenia.

1940s: Researchers in the United States began to use the term “autism” to describe children with emotional or social problems.

1944: German scientist Hans Asperger described a “milder” form of autism, known today as Asperger’s disorder.

1960-70s: Research into treatments for autism focused on medications such as LSD, electric shock, and behavioral change techniques. The latter relied on pain and punishment.

1965: US Psychologist Bernard Rimland established the Autism Society of America, one of the first advocacy groups for parents of children with autism.

1980: The diagnosis of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders were added to DSM-III.

1994: Asperger’s disroder and Rett’s disorder were officially added to the DSM-IV.

2013: The DSM-5 introduced the category of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Did You Know?

The DSM-5 criteria for ASD identified 91% of DSM-IV diagnosed patients with Pervasive Developmental (PDD) disorders.

Autism In The DSM-5

The specifiers for Autism Spectrum Disorder in DSM-5 include with or without language or intellectual impairment, or association with a known medical or genetic condition or environmental factor or with catatonia.

Changes in DSM-5 criteria for autism and related disorders:

Single diagnostic category of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) includes DSM-IV Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Rett’s Disorder, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.

Three symptom domains of DSM-IV replaced by two in DSM-5 because deficits in communication are intimately related to social deficits. This will also fix the “double counting” of DSM-IV.

DSM-IV requires symptoms to begin prior to age 3 whereas DSM-5 requires symptoms to begin in early development period with the caveat that they may not be fully manifest until later.

DSM-5 has inclusion of specifiers, and text descriptions to include symptoms unique to various ages and verbal abilities.

New category of Social Communication Disroder (SCD) added which includes many cases of PDD-NOS in DSM-IV.

Criticisms of DSM 5 Diagnosis of ASD:

Asperger’s Disorder is no longer a diagnosis. It is considered milder form of Autistic disorder.

Increase in requirement in social communications domain.

Research done prior to DSM 5 will not be comparable with research done afterwards.

Changes in criteria threaten delivery of services.

What causes Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder. Abnormalities in brain structure and function as well as neurotransmitters have also been identified.

Most common comorbid disorders in patients with ASD include mood disorders, anxiety disorders including OCD, sleep disorders, ADD and schizophrenia.

There is no evidence that vaccines or parenting behavior are associated with ASD.

How Do Doctors Treat Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Behavioral Therapies: They should be tried first in all patients. They address the social, language and behavioral difficulties associated with ASD. Examples include traditional Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy which is structured, adult driven and one on one; developmentally based treatments like floor time which focuses on play and is child driven or naturalistic ABA therapy which is child driven and embedded in natural child play.

Educational Therapies: Children with autism often respond well to highly structured education programs. Successful programs often include a team of specialists and a variety of activities to improve social skills, communication and behavior. Preschool aged children who receive intensive, individualized behavioral interventions often show good progress.

Family Therapies: Parents and family members can learn how to play and interact with their children in ways that promote social interaction skills, manage problem behaviors, and tech daily living skills and communication.

Medications: Some may be helpful as an adjunct to therapies to treat symptoms of the disorder. For example, risperidone and aripiprazole are FDA approved to treat irritability association with autistic conditions. SSRIs may be helpful in some patients for anxiety, irritability associated with autistic conditions. Psychostimulants may be helpful for comorbid ADD-like symptoms.

Can someone with autistic spectrum disorder still lead a successful life?

There are many successful people who are autistic.

Dan Aykroyd
Courtney Love
Lewis Carol
Dan Harmon
Andy Warhol
Tim Burton
James Durbin
Daryl Hannah
James Durbin
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Source: Cool Infographics


  1. As a parent of an autistic child and as as far as I understand it, I think the floortime therapy is one of the most effective options for treating autism. I have seen it, tried it and know that it works and works quite well.
    And yes, thank you for this well detailed post.

  2. Hi, I’m doing an article on autism for a national newspaper in Ireland and I was wondering if i could make use of any of the infographics on your site. They are very clear and informative. I would of course reference your site by name.
    Thank you
    Justine Carbery

1 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Causes Sleep Apnea Adults With Autism | Methods to Stop Snoring

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.