Unknown: Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Unknown: Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism spectrum disorders, or ASD, is a term used by psychiatrists to refer to a group of developmental disorders of childhood that are still not well understood. The three major forms of ASD are Asperger syndrome,

autism, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, or PDD-NOS. These three disorders are sometimes grouped together with two other very rare disorders as pervasive developmental disorders or PDDs.

What the three ASDs have in common is impaired ability to communicate and interact socially with other people, combined with a limited set of interests. Children with Asperger syndrome differ from those diagnosed with autism or PDD-NOS in that they do not show a delay in language development.

The autistic spectrum disorders are thought to affect six to seven of every 1,000 school-age children. Most of these children are diagnosed as having PDD-NOS; autism accounts for one or two children in every 1,000, and Asperger syndrome for one child in every 5,000–10,000.

Most children with ASDs benefit from individualized special education programs and behavioral therapy to help them learn social skills. Many—perhaps as many as 10 percent—of these children have special gifts or talents that enable them to excel in fields that do not require working closely with others.

SEE ALSO Asperger syndrome; Autism