Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. ASDs are "spectrum disorders," meaning that they affect each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe.
You may see students diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome or as PDD-NOS. In the planned edition of the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), all the various classifications used to describe this disorder will be collapsed into one category. According to an American Psychiatric Association (APA) statement released in early December, 2012, the new autisim criteria "will incorporate several diagnoses from DSM-IV including autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder (not otherwise specified) into the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder for DSM-5 to help more accurately and consistently diagnose children with autism."
Children diagnosed with autism will display widely varying strengths and weakness. Nearly all will have social challenges, and some children may have significant language delays. Many students may display unusual behaviors (rocking, flapping of hands) and have very singular interests. Many people with autistim have an intellectual disability as well. Individuals that were classified as having Asperger's syndrome in the DSM-IV are generally higher functioning intellectually, but have social challenges as well as unusual behaviors and interests.
The important thing to remember is that autism is truly a spectrum disorder, encompassing a wide range of strengths, weaknesses and impairments.