Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum disorder (ASD) is a category including a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour (APA, 2013). The autistic spectrum disorders previously were categorized as pervasive developmental disorder or PDD, autism disorder, and Asperger’s syndrome.

Diagnostic criteria for ASD now outlines:

  1. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, manifesting with impaired social-emotional reciprocity, deficits in non-verbal communication behaviours, and deficits in developing, maintaining and understanding relationships. Severity is based on social communication impairment and restricted repetitive patterns of behavior.
  2. Symptoms must be present in early development.
  3. Symptoms must cause clinically significant social, occupational or other functional restrictions.
  4. These disturbances cannot be explained by intellectual disability ( intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay though these disorders may be co-morbid to ASD and could also include catatonia or associated medical or genetic conditions such as Rett’s syndrome.


Social (pragmatic) Communication Disorder: Includes persistent difficulties of using communication for social purposes, impairment of the ability to change communication to match the context or the needs of the listener ( such as shifting from classroom to playground settings, adult to child communication), difficulties following conversation or narratives, and difficulty understanding social inference, non-linear or ambiguous meanings which are part of every day communication.



American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Disclaimer: Resources, information, and links on the Transitional Care Website are provided as a courtesy to our visitors in order to increase knowledge and awareness of issues surrounding childhood mental health. These are not intended to replace or act as professional medical advice. Please consult a mental health professional if you have questions or concerns.