What is Autism? An overview

Autism is a complex neurological disorder that impacts communication, behavior and social relationships, it is part of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).


Today, about 1 in 59 children has been diagnosed with ASD according to estimates from CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined.


ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups. It is found to be four times more common in boys than girls.  Symptoms can range from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to quite severe developmental disabilities such as intellectual challenges, cerebral palsy and autism.






Definition of Autism

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted and repetitive behavior. Symptoms of Autism typically appear during the first three years of life. Some children show signs from birth, other seem to develop normally at first only to slip suddenly into symptoms when they are between 18 to 26 months old. 


Autism was first identified in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins Hospital. At the same time, a German scientist, Dr. Hans Asperger, described a milder form of the disorder that is now known as Asperger Syndrome. The two disorders are listed in the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as two of the five developmental disorders that fall under Autism Spectrum Disorders. The others include Rett Syndrome, PDD NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder), and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. All of these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social abilities, including repetitive behaviors.

Classification of Autism



- ICD 10