TASK FORCE TO REVIEW NEEDS FOR ADULTS ON THE AUTSIM SPECTRUM
Autism Definition and Scope Subcommittee
This subcommittee is charged with identifying generally accepted definitions within the autism spectrum and recommending a definition to be used by the State of Delaware for the purposes of providing services to adults.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an increasingly popular term that refers to a broad definition of autism including the classical form of the disorder as well as closely related disabilities that share many of the core characteristics. Autism is considered a spectrum disorder, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. As a spectrum disorder, the level of developmental impairment is unique to each individual.
Three main clusters of behaviors define autism spectrum disorders, as follows:
(1) social abnormalities, especially a lack of social reciprocity;
(2) language abnormalities, with deviant communication features and/or limited development of language; and
(3) rigid, stereotyped, repetitive patterns of unusual behavior, interests or activities.
It is important to note that autism spectrum disorder is not part of a diagnostic classification system. Rather, it is a descriptive term used to reflect the concept that “autistic” behaviors are on a continuum or spectrum.
Closely related to the concept of autism spectrum disorders is the diagnostic term pervasive developmental disorder. This term is not a specific diagnosis, but an umbrella term under which specific diagnoses are defined. Both the Diagnostic Statistical Manual–IV (DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10; World Health Organization) use Pervasive Developmental Disorders as part of their diagnostic classification system.
Both the ICD 10 and DSM-IV retained the category of pervasive developmental disorders; the ICD 10 includes seven diagnostic disorders and the DSM-IV includes five (shown below). The specific criteria for autistic disorder are almost identical between the ICD-10 and the DSM-IV. In these diagnostic systems there are approximately 12 criteria divided into the three symptom areas of impaired socialization, impaired communication, and restricted range of behaviors, activities and interests. The two major diagnostic classification systems are detailed in an appendix.