What is ASD?

Autism is a severe disruption of the normal development process and is often diagnosed within the first few years of life. Autism is viewed as a spectrum or a continuum of disorders, with varying degrees of severity and levels of functioning. The term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is frequently used interchangeably with autism. Diagnoses from DSM-IV such as Asperger’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Autistic Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (Not Otherwise Specified) are now all included within the umbrella of ASD under DSM-5.


DSM-5 – Autism Spectrum Disorder

The fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) was published in 2013. The manual reflects the state of knowledge of mental and emotional disorders. Changes in the newest edition include combining the previously distinct Pervasive Developmental Disorders (Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified) into one new disorder: Autism Spectrum Disorder.

However, due to changes in criteria, not all people diagnosed with a Pervasive Developmental Disorder in the previous edition of the DSM will receive a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the new criteria. In addition to the changes in criteria, a 3-level severity scale has been added to the manual. Those who no longer meet the diagnostic criteria may qualify for Social Communication Disorder.

Diagnostic Criteria (2 Domain)


  • Impaired Social Communication and Interaction
  • Restrictive Repetitive Behavior, interest or activities
Three Required Symptoms:


  • Deficits in social interaction
  • Deficits in social communication
  • Deficits in play or friendship
Restricted, repetitive behavior, interests, or activities:(Must have a symptom in 2 of the 4 areas)


  • Repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech.
  • Rigidity related to routines or rituals.
  • Restricted interest abnormal in intensity or focus
  • Over or under sensitivity or interest in sensory stimuli (pain, temperature, light, sound, etc.)
Severity Indication:


  • Level 1 (“Requiring support”)
  • Level 2 (“Requiring substantial support”)
  • Level 3 (“Requiring very substantial support”)


  • Well established diagnosis ⇨ ASD diagnosis
  • No longer meet criteria ⇨ Social Communication Disorder